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Spartans’ bats take charge

DeKALB – Sycamore designated hitter Austin Jacox went 1 for 2 with two sacrifice flies and a long two-run home run to left field in the Spartans’ 12-1, six-inning win Wednesday over DeKalb in both teams’ Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East opener.

The thing is, Sycamore was able to get that output from Jacox in the No. 7 spot.

In Wednesday’s win, the Spartans (7-1. 1-0) got hits from seven of the nine batters in their lineup, while eight of the nine were able to reach base.

Sycamore got homers from Jacox and catcher Nathan Haacker, who hit his fourth big fly of the season in a three-run first inning for the Spartans. Both blasts were two-run shots.

“I thought we had quality at-bats, even in the innings that we didn’t score” Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. “Save for the third inning, we had good at-bats the whole time.”

Haacker finished 2 for 4. Third baseman Mark Skelley – the Spartans’ No. 6 hitter –went 3 for 3 with a walk, two runs scored and three RBIs, while center fielder Brett Weaver finished 1 for 1 with a double, walk and a run scored. Sycamore leadoff hitter Alec Kozak went 1 for 2 with a stolen base, two walks and two runs scored.

Sycamore took advantage of four walks by DeKalb starter Zach Moan in the top of the first and added six runs in the second off reliever Max Fleetwood – all were unearned – and plated three more in the sixth.

“We talk about it all the time. To put yourself in a position to win, you’re going to have to throw strikes, play good defense and have some timely hitting,” DeKalb coach Jake Howells said. “And when you put yourself behind the 8-ball that early by not throwing strikes, and then making some costly errors, against a good team it’s going to be really hard to [win]. You’re just putting yourself behind the 8-ball, and we paid for it.”

Jacox’s second-inning blast to left went well beyond the fence at DeKalb’s Dave Pettengell Field. The Spartans’ offense took advantage of a howling wind out to left.

“I saw the ball over the fence, I was like ‘no way,’ “ Jacox said. “I was shocked. I was really shocked.”

Moan took the loss for the Barbs (5-2, 0-1) and fell to 1-1. Howells went with him instead of his ace, John Crosby, because he wanted whoever pitched Wednesday to go in the series opener against Kaneland on Monday, and didn’t want to bring Crosby, who had some injury issues, back Monday on only four days rest.

Cole Nelson (2-0) started for Sycamore and gave up only three hits and struck out six in a complete game.

“Our infield defense worked really well today. We turned two double plays early,” Cavanaugh said. “That’s a big factor on a day like today is having a pitcher who can A, strike people out, and B, sink the ball a little bit to keep it on the ground.”

The teams will continue their series at 4:30 p.m. today at Northern Illinois’ Ralph McKinzie Field.

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