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BASEBALL INSIDER: Genoa-Kingston reverses fortunes

Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 11:18 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 11:28 p.m. CDT
Caption
(Danielle Guerra - dguerra@shawmedia.com)
Hampshire base runner Kyle Rutkowski slides past DeKalb catcher Patrick Aves. Dekalb beat Hampshire, 7-5, April 1 in both teams' season opener.

Genoa-Kingston has been through hard times. The Cogs lost 26 games in 2013. But, if a revival is to happen this spring it will be due to performances like the one starting pitcher Andrew Caldwell (1-1) turned in on Saturday in a doubleheader sweep of Mendota.

The Cogs fell behind 5-0 in the first inning, and every run was scored with two outs. Yet, Caldwell said he felt fine in the dugout between innings and G-K coach Anson Ellis didn't make a move. Caldwell was given the opportunity to prove he had good stuff and went on to show it on the field. The sophomore surrendered just two hits and struck out eight the rest of the game as G-K (4-4) came back for a 7-5 win and moved back to .500 on the season.

"Last year we just couldn't win a close game," Ellis said. "This year we've already shown the ability to come back and post a few wins."

With a .111 batting average and 12 strikeouts from the leadoff spot at the outset of the year, Ellis made another key move that has worked well. Jake Langford was moved to leadoff and promptly turned in a seven-RBI performance in the doubleheader sweep.

"Jake has been our leading hitter," Ellis said. "I just figured we needed to get a guy up top that would get on base."

Hiawatha revised: A regional title in 2013 has instilled new-found confidence into the Hawks.

Perhaps too much confidence as Hiawatha (2-1) turned in an early uneven performance that caught coach Sean Donnelly by surprise.

"The bad weather had nothing to do with our start," Donnelly said. "We were just a little overconfident. We've just got some new expectations to deal with when it comes to winning. We've still got to go out and do it on the field."

Senior starting pitcher Taylor Edwards (2-0) has both Hawks wins and has yet to surrender an earned run, while junior leadoff hitter Nick Doolittle has eight stolen bases in three games.

"Nick always knows he has the green light on base," Donnelly said. "He's just got a great feel for the game and when to go."

T'wolves need eight: With five or six games sandwiched into the next few weeks, Indian Creek coach Joe Piekarz will have plenty of pitching opportunities.

"The biggest challenge because of the weather is having enough arms," Piekarz said. "Teams will need 8-10 guys that can go out and throw strikes to get through this season."

The truncated schedule hasn't effected the Indian Creek (4-0) focus.

"We kept preparing like we would be playing the next day," Piekarz said. "We didn't get frustrated and that allowed us to stay sharp."

David Emanuel has picked up two saves for Indian Creek and freshman Trevor Guerra (2-0) has been a stalwart on the mound and has hit over .400 as a leadoff man.

DeKalb wants strikes: Resourceful baseball has been played by the Barbs in their first full week of games.

"We are playing a little better than I anticipated," DeKalb coach Jake Howells said. "I'm very happy with our defense and we can hit up and down the lineup. Every guy in the lineup has found a way to contribute."

No. 5 hitter Josh Snead and No. 7 hitter Noah Baert are an example of DeKalb (5-1) using its whole lineup to manufacture runs.

"Those two guys have kept our lineup going," Howells said. "They have turned it over and gotten back to the top."

Still, the Barbs are in search of consistent pitching from someone other than ace John Crosby. Of the 22 walks the Barbs have issued opposing hitters, 16 have scored.

"Players are starting to buy in," Howells said. "They see the plan and know if they execute it, we've got the talent to go out and be successful."

The Kaneland seven: In a 2-1 loss against state-contender Batavia March 31, Kaneland took a unique approach.

It was just the second time the Knights (3-3) had been outside all season, so Kaneland coach Brian Aversa used a different pitcher each inning.

"It was a glorified spring training game for us," Aversa said. "We got a lot of guys a look and were able to play well against a good team."

VIEWS: Time is in short supply for juniors.

Not on their prep baseball career, they will have a whole summer and senior season to fulfill their career goals. Instead, it's a race to get recognized by college baseball coaches for players with aspirations of playing at the next level.

A dreadful winter that lingered well into spring has forced teams into playing an abbreviated schedule, which translates into less opportunity opportunity to crack a lineup or have a college coach take notice of a player's talents.

The players most effected by the cancellation of games are the ones trying to crack the lineup.

"Normally new players on varsity will have 12 games before conference where they will earn their way into the lineup," DeKalb coach Jake Howells said. "This year the weather got in the way of that development and players weren't afforded as many chances as during a full season.

"Hopefully for a junior that wants to play in college they've already been on a team's radar/ There are showcase camps and travel baseball opportunities in the summer where college coaches take notice of their skills. If a player wants to play at the next level they will find a way to be seen."

SPOTLIGHT ON ...

Andrew Caldwell

Genoa-Kingston, sophomore

A first-inning rebound helped G-K pull off a doubleheader sweep of Mendota on Saturday. After a five-run first, Caldwell didn't' surrender a run, and the Cogs are off to a .500 start.

POWER RANKINGS

1. Sycamore (6-1) 2. DeKalb (5-1) 3. Indian Creek (4-0) 4. Kaneland (3-3) 5. Hiawatha (2-1) 6. Genoa-Kingston (4-4) 7. Hinckley-Big Rock (3-3)

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Sycamore vs. DeKalb, 4:30 p.m. Thursday, 11:00 a.m. and 1 p.m. Friday

The two teams will get the series started Thursday at Northern Illinois' Ralph McKinzie Field, and close the set with a doubleheader at DeKalb on Good Friday. Both teams have had games canceled and enter conference play with only a few nonconference contests. The intensity for the crosstown rivalry is always high, and both teams are on a roll.

"We are always excited to play DeKalb," Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. "It will be a competitive series. They are swinging the bats and pitching well. I don't expect either team to really pull away in what should be a real competitive series."

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