SPOTLIGHT ON ...
Kaneland, sophomore, third baseman
Kuefler had a two-run home run in the Knights’ 7-2 win over Morris on Tuesday.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Class 1A regionals, Tuesday through May 18
Hiawatha looks for a regional crown as the top seed at the Class 1A Durand Regional. Indian Creek is the fourth seed at the Ashton-Franklin Center Regional.
DeKalb at Kaneland, 4:30 p.m. Thursday
This matchup could be pivotal in the race for the Northern Illinois Big 12 East title.
1. Kaneland (16-3, 8-1 N. Illinois Big 12 East): Knights win out, they’re conference champs.
2. DeKalb (18-4, 6-2 NI Big 12 East): Barbs still within reach of a league title.
3. Genoa-Kingston (15-5, 6-4 Big Northern East): Cogs having a good year, but have a tough draw in the Sycamore Regional.
4. Sycamore (9-14, 3-7 NI Big 12 East): Spartans’ record not flashy, but team should be able to compete in the postseason.
5. Hiawatha (9-8, 9-6 Little Ten Conference): Can the Hawks take home a regional title?
6. Indian Creek (5-13, 5-11 LTC): Timberwolves have a tough road to climb in the postseason.
NOTEBOOK: Spartans healthy in time for playoffs
Jill Carpenter’s Sycamore Spartans will have a chance to prove themselves against Marengo and Burlington Central, possible regional opponents, before the postseason begins.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, that chance comes after the release of the postseason seeds. Sycamore ended up with the No. 4 seed at its own Class 3A regional, and will take on fifth-seeded Hampshire in the quarterfinal with a chance to play top-seeded Burlington Central. Genoa-Kingston is the third seed and will take on second-seeded Marengo in the semifinals.
The Spartans also were scheduled to play the Cogs, but it was just another game that was lost to inclement weather at the beginning of the year.
“The downer is, our games against Burlington and Genoa got either rain or colded-out or something in the beginning of the year,” Carpenter said. “So you don’t get a chance to necessarily prove yourself against your competition.”
However, Carpenter said her Spartans are starting to come together at the right time. Sycamore finally is healthy, as Tuesday’s 4-3 loss to DeKalb was the first time all 14 players on the roster were available.
“If we can stay healthy for this run, I anticipate us to be in every ball game we play and win more than we lose,” Carpenter said. “I do think that our record is not necessarily indicative of our talent level.”
Barbs lose coin flip
The voting for the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A Jacobs Regional couldn’t have been any closer.
Both DeKalb and Cary-Grove tied for the top spot, so it was decided on a coin flip, with the Trojans getting the first seed.
The second-seeded Barbs will play third-seeded Huntley in the semifinals, while Cary-Grove gets the winner of the quarterfinal between No. 4 Crystal Lake South and No. 5 Jacobs.
Heading into Thursday’s game against Yorkville, the Barbs still had a shot at a Northern Illinois Big 12 East crown.
However, DeKalb coach Jeff Davis still is focused on the postseason, which is why he’s being careful with one of his pitchers, junior Katie Kowalski. Kowalski still is recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome, and Davis wants to keep her healthy.
Both Kowalski and freshman Morgan Newport have had consistent time in the circle. The Barbs already have had three games this week, and take on Sterling this afternoon.
“We’ve got a busy week,” Davis said. “They’re going to get their work in, and we’ve got to keep everybody healthy, and just get a little bit closer to the conference title and our regionals.”
VIEWS: Regionals carry more weight than league titles
Last week on the Daily Chronicle Preps Twitter feed, @dc_preps, we posed this question: What would you rather accomplish – a regional championship or a conference championship? Why?
We got some varied responses.
I saw this question pop up, and it didn’t take too long for me to think of my answer.
It’s simple, regional titles mean more. To me, there really isn’t even a debate. Nobody remembers whether a team wins a conference title if it bows out in its first regional game. It’s all about the postseason and how far you go. I’d take a fifth-place finish in conference and a regional crown over a conference title any day.
Last season, Kaneland’s baseball team won the Northern Illinois Big 12 East, but lost to DeKalb in its first regional game. Do you think the Knights pushed the regional loss aside because they won the conference title?
In the end, with a strong postseason, nobody’s going to remember what happened in conference play. Sycamore’s softball team didn’t win an NI Big 12 East title in 2011, but won a regional and made it all the way to a supersectional.
I doubt those players were lamenting the fact they didn’t win a conference championship.
Conference titles are nice. It says a lot about a team to get through an aggressive slate, especially in a league such as the NI Big 12 East when it comes to softball.
However, when the season’s over, what really matters is who’s hoisting those plaques in the postseason.
• Steve Nitz is a staff writer for the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.