SYCAMORE – Cole Nelson describes himself as a “man of action.”
The Sycamore junior pitcher works fast. He doesn’t waste any time. Nelson gets the ball and throws it.
This season, Nelson’s efficiency has worked. In the Spartans’ 3-0 win over Yorkville Monday, Nelson allowed just six hits and struck out five in a complete-game effort, improving to 5-0 on the season.
Nelson worked quickly the whole time. The game was finished in under and hour and a half.
“I’ve always been really quick,” Nelson said. “I want to get it, get it done and get the ball rolling.”
The series-opening win improves the Spartans’ record to 19-6 and 10-3 in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East. The second-place Foxes fall to 14-11 and 8-4 in conference play, and have a makeup game against DeKalb on May 14.
With just one more win in the series against Yorkville, Sycamore will win its first Northern Illinois Big 12 East title. The teams play today at Yorkville, and return to Sycamore for the series finale Thursday.
“We’re feeling pretty good right now,” said Sycamore center fielder Brett Weaver, who was 2 for 2 with a home run.
“We’ve got to come out [Tuesday] and play good baseball just like we did today, and get another win.”
Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh wants five things from his pitching staff. He wants to see his hurlers throw strikes, work fast, change speeds, field their position and control the running game.
Cavanaugh felt Nelson did all of those things in Monday’s victory. He also said quick games have been a theme for his team this season and pitchers working fast helps keep the defense on its feet.
“You’ve seen it happen for years. Pitchers not throwing strikes, kids are standing out there making X’s in the dirt. Standing out there, looking around to see if anybody’s watching,” Cavanaugh said. “When there’s a good chance that the next pitch is going to be hit, you’ve got to pay attention. [Nelson]’s in the strike zone all day.”
Sycamore had trouble against Yorkville starter Kyle Shimp, who struck out nine hitters thanks to a nasty changeup, but the Spartans broke through in the fourth, when Mitchell Jordan reached base on a bunt single – Sycamore’s first hit of the game – and scored on a wild pitch.
Ian Kidd scored on an Alec Kozak sacrifice fly in the fifth, while Weaver capped off the scoring in the sixth with a homer to left field that was originally called a ground rule double.
With the way the Spartans’ pitching has been, they haven’t needed a ton of runs.
“It takes a lot of weight off your shoulders as a hitter,” Weaver said. “You know you’ve got to get hits for them and produce runs, but when you’ve got studs like that on the mound, it makes it a lot easier at the plate for you.”