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DeKalb ousts defending state champ

MAPLE PARK – The DeKalb baseball team knew it had its work cut out for it Wednesday when it faced the host in a Class 3A Kaneland Regional semifinal.

“It’s fun to have an opportunity to be an underdog against a team you know you can beat,” DeKalb coach Jake Howells said. “We’re probably the only team in the state who had the opportunity to beat the state champs on their home field in the first round.”

Howells said the Barbs had nothing to lose in being the fourth seed against this year’s Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference champion and the defending Class 3A state champions. DeKalb cruised to a 9-3 victory in the regional semifinals, taking advantage of a couple of errors by the top-seeded Knights.

The game opened up for DeKalb (18-15-1) in the fifth inning, when Brian Sisler drove in Matt Hoyle and Jared Johnson with one out remaining. Sisler later scored on a wild pitch, making it 5-2 to end the frame.

With two outs in the sixth and the bases loaded, Sisler stepped up and smacked a three-RBI double into center. Trenton Sopko drove in Sisler on a triple, putting the game away for good.

DeKalb will play the winner of today’s Marmion-St. Francis game for the regional title at 11 a.m. Saturday in Maple Park.

“As a coach, all you can hope for is to get a player like Brian in a situation where he can really do some damage,” Howells said. “He’s happy for himself, but I know how much he wanted to get it done for his teammates.

Howells also highlighted Danny Petras, who eventually walked after battling with Kaneland (24-11) pitcher Drew Peters on a full count with one out remaining to get Sisler to the plate.

“I’ve been in that situation a lot this year, and unfortunately I really haven’t been able to come through too often this year, and today it turned out positively. ” Sisler said. “Coach gave us a little quote a couple weeks ago to look at: ‘If you believe in one thing, it will happen,’ and I took that … and it worked out.”

Mike Olson put Kaneland up a run with an RBI double in the fourth inning. In the first and second innings, Kaneland left the bases loaded without scoring more than a single run. In the first, Kaneland hit into a double play after a pair of walks, and in the second inning the Knights hit into a double play after attempting a squeeze play.

“We played some uncharacteristic baseball,” Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said. “Today DeKalb took advantage of some our miscues and missteps.

“These guys came out and they won conference outright, two losses in conference against a stacked conference and we’re going to take that away this year. These guys have something to be proud of.”

Ray Bary, who went 2 for 3 on the day for Kaneland, remained optimistic.

“We expected to go a little farther in the playoffs,” Barry said. “But we came out here and did better than we even thought coming into the season.”

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