DeKALB – Before Monday there had been just two great weather days for baseball, according to Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh. Both times the Spartans didn’t have a game scheduled.
But with the winds easing up and and temperatures reaching the mid-60s, Sycamore took advantage of perfect field conditions at Northern Illinois University’s Ralph McKinzie Field in its Northern Illinois Big 12 East opener against rival DeKalb.
Sycamore broke through for a seven-run second inning and cruised to an 8-1 win over DeKalb to take the first match of a three-game set this week.
“Coach always says if you can bat around in a game, you’re most likely going to win,” said Sycamore senior Mitchell Jordan, who had two RBIs. “Whenever we do that we’re feeling pretty comfortable.”
The first seven Sycamore (4-3, 1-0 NI Big 12 East) batters reached base and scored in the second inning. Alec Kozak led off with a double and came around to score on a DeKalb error. Three batters later, Curtis Swartenzdrubber’s RBI single to right field brought home Cooper Vinz and Nate Haacker’s two-run single made it a six-run Sycamore lead. Brett Weaver’s sacrifice fly capped the scoring.
“All year we’ve struggled with the big inning. We’re a very young team defensively,” DeKalb coach Jake Howells said. “I only have one guy who is starting in the same position as last year. When things start to unravel a little bit, we’ve had a hard time bringing it back in.”
The Barbs failed to capitalize on a couple of early run-scoring opportunities. In the first inning, Danny Petras was thrown out at the plate on a perfectly executed relay from right field. DeKalb (4-6, 0-1) threatened again in the second, but Sycamore left fielder Davey Scholz gunned down Josh Snead at the plate to keep it a 7-0 lead.
“We made the great plays, but we missed a lot of the routine plays,” Cavanaugh said. “When you throw two guys out at the plate, it ends up looking a lot better than what it really was.”
Spartans starter Scott Nelson (2-0) pitched six innings and allowed only six hits and zero earned runs while striking out five batters. The Barbs finally broke through for a run in the fifth inning, taking advantage of two Sycamore errors.
“Scott pitched really well. He comes out and throws strikes,” Cavanaugh said. “He was under 90 pitches today in six innings with a bunch of errors behind him.”
Haacker finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs while Swartzendrubber was 1-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Corey Nelson finished 1-for-1 and reached base three times for DeKalb.
The three-game series shifts to Sycamore today at 4:30 p.m. before finishing at DeKalb on Thursday.