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Spartans’ offense on fire in postseason

Published: Saturday, June 1, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Monica Maschak - mmaschak@shawmedia.com Mark Skelley slides into third base in the fourth inning of the Class 3A Sycamore Sectional semifinals against Rockford East on Thursday, May 30, 2013. The Spartans shutout the E-Rabs 10-0 in six innings.

The Sycamore baseball team might have to get used to text messages filled with exclamation points from Jason Cavanaugh if its scoring binge continues. 

The mild-mannered veteran coach doesn’t hold extensive postgame speeches. Yet, even his reserved personality couldn’t help but pay homage to an offense that has scored 35 runs in three playoff games and a flawless defense and pitching staff that has allowed only three runs. 

It just had to come via text message because he dismissed the Spartans quickly because of the imminent arrival of a thunderstorm Thursday after a 10-0, six-inning win against Rockford East.

The suddenly potent Sycamore offense has catapulted the host Spartans (25-11) to the Class 3A Sycamore Sectional final against St. Francis (22-11) at 11 a.m. today at Sycamore Park District.

Sycamore has forced the 10-run mercy rule in every playoff game. 

“After the Rockford East game, I could see a storm on the horizon moving in fast and didn’t want to have the players stuck out on the field,” said Cavanaugh, who is trying to guide the Spartans to their first sectional title in his 17th season. “I didn’t get to give a postgame speech, so I sent a text just to let them know how proud I was of them. I don’t usually talk for more than a minute anyway. A postgame speech is for a coach, not a player. 

“But this is a great group of seniors. I haven’t had more fun with another group of guys. They’ve been positive since Day 1.”

Cole Nelson (7-0, 2.09 ERA) is scheduled to start against St. Francis and looks to be aided by a Sycamore offense that finally has hit its stride. The Spartans had a seven-game winning streak this season, but rarely have the starting pitchers had the extensive run support they’ve enjoyed in the playoffs. 

For left fielder Davey Scholz, Sycamore simply started to do the “little things” better on offense – even as the wind blew in against Rockford East. 

“We really have focused up in the playoffs,” Scholz said. “We’ve for sure hit better in the postseason. We’ve got more focus at the plate. We are doing whatever possible to score runs. We are hot at the right time.”  

St. Francis won the Kaneland Regional and beat Burlington Central, 2-1, in nine innings Wednesday to set up Saturday’s all-Spartans final (both schools share the nickname). St. Francis was forced to use three pitchers, and the Sycamore coaching staff was able to scout Jack Petrando and Andrew Brundage, both potential starters for today who were pressed into relief action against the Rockets. 

Whoever starts for St. Francis, Cavanaugh sounds like a stockbroker and a baseball coach when asked to describe Sycamore’s offensive renaissance.

“We are getting production up and down our lineup,” Cavanaugh said. “There’s no automatic out. It’s a great time for us to have a market correction. Mitchell Jordan is hitting the cover off the ball. He’s hitting everything on the barrel and is locked in. It seems like he’s always up with two out and two on and coming up with the big hit. 

“Our approach has been up the middle and we are hitting breaking balls. What were loud, long fouls are now splitting the gaps in left and right center. If we are early, it’s a double down the left-field line. It’s always been a mindset for us any offensive struggles were never physical.”

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