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THE INSIDER: Baseball

Published: Thursday, April 11, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Erik Anderson – For the Daily Chronicle)
DeKalb's John Crosby pitches to Sycamore batters during mid gameplay action Monday at NIU's Ralph McKinzie Field.

Spotlight on...

Alec Kozak

Sycamore, junior

The Sycamore lineup is loaded with hitters that don’t hesitate to take big swings. The result can be feast or famine offensive numbers. But Kozak has had a consistent approach at the plate all season.

“He just has solid at bats,” Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. “He does what we teach and as a result hits the ball hard. It seems like he is always just waiting to get up there and hit a double.”

What to watch for

Sycamore at DeKalb

4:30 p.m., today

One inning has separated Sycamore and DeKalb in their first two games. The Spartans exploded for seven runs in a series opening, 8-1, win on Monday. It took eight innings for the Barbs to even the series on Tuesday with a 10-9 win. 

DeKalb starts Corey Nelson (1-0, 1 save) and Sycamore will send Cole Nelson (2-0) to the mound as both teams search for a win that, despite it being the first Northern Illinois Big 12 East series, could eventually determine the conference champion.

“Every series counts,” Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. “We have found that out over the years. A win in an early season conference game is just as important as a win later in the season.”

Kaneland at Rochelle

4:30 p.m., today

Pitching and defense has helped the Knights climb closer to .500. A Northern Illinois Big 12 East series sweep against Rochelle would help an inexperienced Kaneland team continue to find its way.

Power Rankings

1. Sycamore (4-4, 1-1 NI Big 12 East)]

2. DeKalb (5-6, 1-1 NI Big 12 East)

3. Hiawatha (4-1, 3-0 Little Ten)

4. Hinckley-Big Rock (6-3, 5-1 Little Ten)

5. Kaneland (4-6, 1-0 NI Big 12 East)

6. Indian Creek (3-4, 3-2 Little Ten)

7. Genoa-Kingston (2-5, 1-1 BNC East)

NOTES

Barbs recording hits across the lineup

Barbs’ turning point: Every Barb that played recorded a hit in DeKalb’s eight-inning win over Sycamore on Tuesday. It’s a feat DeKalb coach Jake Howells has rarely seen in his baseball career.

“All nine starters and a sub got a hit,” Howells said. “It wasn’t like anyone was 4-for-4. Everyone on the team contributed and got on base. We didn’t hit doubles all over the field either. We took advantage of a few mistakes. It was a great, back-and-forth game.”

Multiple players making offensive contributions is the formula for success Howells believes the young Barbs’ lineup should use. DeKalb also needs to be resilient and avoid the big inning. In Monday’s 8-1 loss the Barbs yielded seven runs in the second inning. 

But Tuesday they had an answer for every Spartans’ rally and used a safety squeeze bunt by No. 9 hitter Nick Bourdegas to score Corey Nelson, who also picked up the save and will get the start in the series finale today. 

“We responded well when mistakes happened,” Howells said. “Mistakes are bound to happen and we’ve got to avoid going into panic mode. We can’t get on each other. We’ve got to stay together and find a way for everyone to contribute. Today was a picture of what we need to do.”

Spartans need outs: The numbers didn’t favor Sycamore in Tuesday’s loss to DeKalb.

Mitchell Jordan (0-2) took the loss as the Spartans surrendered 16 hits, four walks and three hit batters in eight innings. Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh starts Cole Nelson (2-0) today as the Spartans try to win an important opening Northern Illinois Big 12 East series.

“Our pitchers have to get people out,” Cavanaugh said. “That’s the name of the game. It always has been. Our pitchers need to go out and stop the bleeding.”

While the Spartans were rifling doubles to the gaps, DeKalb ground out a win with singles and an eventual safety squeeze to determine the outcome. 

Shake up at Kaneland: Brian Aversa though a lineup adjustment was in order. 

So the Kaneland coach moved Dan Miller to lead off, Josh Cohrs to third and Matt Limbrunner to the cleanup spot. The result was a 6-4 home win against Rochelle on Tuesday to open the Northern Illinois Big 12 East conference season. 

“We got multiple hits in the series opener,” Aversa said. “We made a few changes to get our most consistent more at bats. We’ve had to focus on hitting, making the right choices in certain situations. The guys are working hard to understand what we are trying to do.”

VIEWS

Hiawatha changing opponents' expectations

Sean Donnelly has the right attitude. 

He has always had it as the Hawks football and baseball coach. His patience and willingness to teach the game and inspire student-athletes is finally being rewarded this year. 

Hiawatha (4-1, 4-0 Little Ten) is in a position opponents don’t always expect: first place. 

“We aren’t used to the fact that we should be doing well,” Donnelly said. “There are times when there isn’t a lot expected of us from our opponents when we take the field. There are times we’ve struggled in the past. But credit goes to our players who have really worked hard to raise the bar the last couple of years. Teams know they have to play a good game against us. And in turn, our guys always go out and give their best.”

After Wednesday’s rainout, the Hawks have four Little Ten games in the next four days. The players even got a reward for their hard work this season: a day off from an indoor practice on Wednesday. 

“It’s exciting,” Donnelly said. “Our kids are confident. They know on paper we should have a real good team. The possibility for us to do very well exists. We’ve still got to go out everyday and do it though. We’ve got to keep improving.”

James Nokes is a contributor to the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached at sports@daily-chronicle.com.

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