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BASEBALL INSIDER: Sycamore one win from conference crown

Sycamore's Nate Haacker (right) tags out DeKalb's Danny Petras at home base on April 8 at NIU's Ralph McKinzie Field.
Sycamore's Nate Haacker (right) tags out DeKalb's Danny Petras at home base on April 8 at NIU's Ralph McKinzie Field.

Spartans’ bad timing: Sycamore needed a win Tuesday against Yorkville to wrap up the Northern Illinois Big 12 East conference title.

The Spartans jumped out to a 4-0 first-inning lead and had Scott Nelson on the mound. It seemed like a title was all but assured for Sycamore. But the Foxes battled back for a 9-5 win that delayed the Sycamore celebration and kept their own title hopes alive. 

“It was easily our worst game of the year,” Cavanaugh said. “We didn’t get the pitching or defense we’ve had all year. It was a game we needed our hitters to pick up our pitchers and that didn’t happen. We’ve been frustrated by the same offensive mistakes all year.

“Every time we’ve had a chance to create separation we let teams right back in the race. We hold the ability to win conference right in our hands.”

Nathan Haacker continues to be the Spartans most reliable hitter with a .380 average, far from robust by high school standards. The pitching staff led by Cole Nelson (5-0) and Scott Nelson (5-1) has continued its trend of giving Sycamore a chance to be in every game.

Hawks’ learning curve: It was the wrong time to go into a hitting slump. Hiawatha had lofty expectations of a Little Ten conference title and a regional title.

After 3-0 and 6-1 losses to Somonauk on Monday and Tuesday, the Hawks have to refocus on meeting the latter of their goals. It’s uncharted waters for the Hawks as they continue to shed the label of conference also-rans.

“We’re learning to deal with the pressure,” Hiawatha coach Sean Donnelly said. “There’s a lot of pressing going on. We also went into a hitting funk at the wrong time. Our pitching and defense has been great, we just aren’t getting the hits we need right now.”

VIEWS: Hiawatha’s growing pains

This is progress. 

Hiawatha is very disappointed. Sean Donnelly’s voice bears the brunt of a team that ascended to the top of the Power Rankings for the first time in school history, yet when an elusive and historic Little Ten conference title was within their grasp, lost key games to perennial powers.

Somonauk and Hinckley-Big Rock claimed conference superiority with four wins against the Hawks. What once would be deemed moral victories, 3-0 and 6-1 losses to Somonauk Monday and Tuesday, stung deep.

Hiawatha was not only chasing history but looking to conquer its own past. Donnelly has gone back decades and can’t find a record of a conference title. Yet, the Hawks have finished with a .500 conference mark or better for a third consecutive season, further delving into unprecedented territory. 

“We aren’t happy with a third-place finish,”  Donnelly said. “But I told the team to look at where they were as ninth graders. They’d be thrilled with the last three years we’ve had at that point. That’s how far we’ve come. We’ve got to find positives and build off them.”

Hiawatha gets another chance next week at the IHSA Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional. Little Ten foes Indian Creek and H-BR are potential opponents. 

A regional title; now that would be historic.

James Nokes is a contributor to the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via e-mail at

Spotlight On...

David Boehne
Indian Creek, sophomore, pitcher
A six-run first inning usually spells doom. But Boehne kept the T’Wolves in the game with a gutsy, 6 2/3-inning performance on Monday in a 10-9 loss to Hinckley-Big Rock. Indian Creek battled back to hold a 9-8 lead headed into the bottom of the seventh. Of the 10 Royals’ runs, four were earned.

“There were a few hits, errors and hit batsmen in the first inning,” Indian Creek coach Joe Piekarz said. “But he really settled in after that. We scored five in the second and were right back in the game. We really battled to the last out and David helped set that tone.”

What to watch for

Plano at Hinckley-Big Rock, 10 a.m., double header, Saturday 
The Royals will have wrapped up Little Ten play and have a non-conference tuneup before they host next week’s Class 1A Regional. 

Power Rankings
1. Hinckley-Big Rock (15-5, 13-1 Little Ten)
2. Sycamore (19-7, 10-4 Northern Illinois Big 12 East)
3. Hiawatha (9-6-1, 9-5-1 Little Ten) 
4. Kaneland (10-13, 7-7 NI Big 12 East)
5. Indian Creek (8-12-1, 8-7-1 Little Ten)
6. DeKalb (9-14, 4-9 NI Big 12 East)
7. Genoa-Kingston (4-14, 2-5 Big Northern West)

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