DeKALB – Throughout the season, Sycamore baseball coach Jason Cavanaugh has been frustrated with his team’s desire to swing for the fences every time the Spartans step to the plate. The home runs haven’t been coming, and the offense hasn’t produced like Cavanaugh expected it to this season.
But Alec Kozak said he didn’t approach the plate with the goal of hitting the ball out of the park before he hit the first of two Sycamore home runs during the Spartans’ 4-2 win over DeKalb on Monday.
“Coach has been preaching to hit the ball to the opposite field, but today I saw an inside pitch, so I just decided to hit it out to left field,” Kozak said. “I was just seeing some pitches that I was a little out in front of and I guess the wind did play a factor when I hit one out there.”
Cavanaugh has told his team (8-4, 3-1 Northern Illinois Big 12) that home runs can’t be forced. Kozak, who opened the scoring with his solo homer before Davey Scholz cracked another one in the fifth inning, seemed to receive his coach’s message.
“I think home runs just have to happen,” Cavanaugh said. “You have to put a good swing on the pitch aiming for right center, and if you’re a little bit early, you hit one to left center.”
After Kozak’s home run, Alex Keller hit a deep fly ball in the fourth inning with the bases loaded to drive in one run. But Sycamore then hit into a double play, and the Spartans left the door open for DeKalb to come back.
However, Sycamore pitcher Cole Nelson only allowed two hits through five innings. In the fifth, an error loaded the bases with two outs for DeKalb, but Nelson was able to procure the final out of the inning.
Keller drove in Cooper Vinz in the sixth inning to give the Spartans a comfortable 4-0 lead, but DeKalb (6-8, 1-3 NI Big 12 East) wasn’t done. In the sixth, Corey Nelson, Logan Haring and Jake Kuykendall all doubled to score two runs. But Sycamore pitcher Scott Nelson came on in the seventh to finish off Cole Nelson’s win.
“I thought both pitchers pitched really well,” Cavanaugh said. “We got a couple of balls up in the wind today that made a difference early.”
The inexperienced DeKalb lineup continued a rough offensive stretch in which it simply couldn’t figure out Nelson.
“We can get in a funk offensively, and we were kind of taking the good pitches to hit and swinging the ones that were at the borderline,” DeKalb coach Jacob Howells said. “It seemed like we were always falling into swinging at his pitch.”
Sycamore came up with the win with a pair of home runs, but Cavanaugh still wasn’t completely satisfied. If they swing for the opposite field and play smart offensive baseball, he thinks they’ll start producing some big offensive numbers.
“They get the message, but I think it’s a question of putting it into practice when you’re out there,” Cavanaugh said. “We have to put more pressure on defenses.”