SYCAMORE – Sycamore pitcher Cole Nelson was in a rhythm early in Saturday's Class 3A Sycamore Sectional championship, sending the first nine St. Francis batters back to the dugout during a perfect first three innings.
As the game wore on, and Sycamore couldn't put a run on the board, Nelson became more aggressive and fiery, and he kept St. Francis off the board for the first six innings. But all St. Francis needed was an error and a single in the seventh to take the lead, and Sycamore couldn't answer despite loading the bases in the bottom of the seventh of a 1-0 loss.
“The first half of the game, I was just doing my regular thing,” Nelson said. “Then, as the game kept going on and on and we kept not scoring runs, I kept getting more competitive, angry. I was getting more angry at the fact that we couldn't put up a run … It really sucks being beaten by one run in a game where not many errors were being made, not many hits were given up, but it happens to the best.”
Nelson kept his composure all game, allowing just three hits and walking just one. Two of St. Francis' hits came after an error and two outs, including the game-winning hit.
Sycamore managed only one baserunner in each of the first four innings, and two lead-off hits were cancelled out by double plays. Sycamore (25-12) managed just six hits in the game.
"We just kind of reverted back to what we did most of the year and hit most of our balls in the air," Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. "But you've got to score a couple of runs if you want to win a game, and we just weren't able to score them today."
Still, after St. Francis (23-11) broke through in the seventh, Sycamore had a chance to win in the bottom of the inning. Brett Weaver and Scott Nelson reached base before Cooper Vinz walked to load the bases with one out. But the next two batters couldn't reach, and Sycamore ended their first sectional championship game since 2004 without scoring.
“Both pitchers pitched really well. They turned a couple of double plays that kept us out of rallies,” coach Jason Cavanaugh said. “Our pitching dominated all year long, our offense carried us for the last few games, but I'm proud of those guys. They played hard all the way through. It comes down to the last pitch of the last game, and you can't ask for more than that.”
Next year Nelson will lead a strong returning cast that will make another attempt at winning the first sectional championship in program history.
“We had a chance to make history today,” Nelson said. “[The goal next year is to] do it again, except win this time.”