By JAMES NOKES
Spotlight On ...
Confidence has permeated the DeKalb defense when Hop is the Barbs’ starting pitcher. The knuckleballer throws strikes and has kept opponents off balance with his signature pitch. Hop (2-0, 2 saves) hthrew a complete game in a 9-4 win against Morris on Monday.
“Our team feels like Austin will keep us in the game when he gets a start,” DeKalb coach Jake Howells said. “He leads us in innings pitched and has the best numbers of all our pitchers.”
1. Indian Creek (9-1, 9-1 Little Ten)
2. Sycamore (18-4, 8-3 Northern Illinois Big 12 East)
3. Hiawatha (7-3, 6-3 Little Ten)
4. Kaneland (13-8, 8-3 NI Big 12 East)
5. Genoa-Kingston (10-8-1, 4-2-1 Big Northern East)
6. DeKalb (9-10, 2-9 NI Big 12 East)
7. Hinckley-Big Rock (5-10, 5-5 Little Ten)
What to watch for
Sycamore vs. Kaneland, today at Kaneland, Thursday at Sycamore, at 4:30 p.m
A pair of potent offenses were kept silent in the Spartans’ 1-0 series-opening win. While a pitchers dual broke out on Monday, both offenses can score runs in bunches. Kaneland ace Anthony Holubecki didn’t start on Monday because he threw two innings on Satuday. When the sophomore gets a start could determine the series. The Notre Dame recruit can take over a game like Sycamore ace Cole Nelson did in game No. 1.
“Against good teams you always try to win two of three games,” Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. “There aren’t a lot of sweeps against teams as good as Kaneland. Wednesday is a big game, especially with Holubecki available for them.”
Notes: Hawks’ combined effort
Will Corn and Nick Doolittle have done most of their damage to opponents as hitters this season.
In a 12-1 win against Earlville-Leland on Monday, the duo turned in rare pitching performances in a combined no-hitter. It is the first no-hitter in the eight-year tenure of Hiawatha coach Sean Donnelly.
With a busy week on tap, the Hawks had just one day without a game, Donnelly said Corn and Doolittle saved the Hiawatha rotation while also getting in a playoff tuneup.
“Neither guy had pitched in a while,” Donnelly said. “We felt like they needed some innings in case we need to use them when regionals and sectionals roll around.”
Barbs’ opportunity: DeKalb struck out twice in a 9-4 win against Morris on Monday.
A stark contrast from the 7.5 strikeouts DeKalb has averaged per game.
“All season it seemed like we didn’t get the big hit we needed,” DeKalb coach Jake Howells said. “In our crossover games Saturday we didn’t feel like we had to be perfect to win and that was confidence that carried over into Monday’s game.”
Because they had extra chances to score and their ace on the mound, DeKalb was able to answer the Redskins’ rallies throughout the game.
“It was a big emotional boost for us to score whenever they did,” Howells said. “We turned around and added runs which really kept us going.”
T’Wolves still sharp: A week off couldn’t slow down Indian Creek.
The Timberwolves 5-0 win at LaMoille on Monday followed a formula coach Joe Piekarz has seen repeated all season: timely hitting, stingy defense and solid, starting pithcing from freshman Trevor Guerra.
“All season we haven’t worried about any other team,” said Piekarz whose team turned a pair of double plays on Monday. “We focus on what we can control. We want to win each inning, throw strikes and have good approaches at the plate. It’s so important to pitch and play defense. We were able to scratch and claw for runs on offense because our pitching and defense kept us in the game.”
Jake Wieseler has been a key utility man for the T’Wolves as he’s offered Piekarz the skills to play second base and all outfield positions. But, Monday it was his bat that was a catalyst as the No. 5 hitter had a pair of doubles.
“Jake has had a good approach at the plate all year,” Piekarz said. “That makes him a tough out and really helps keep our order moving.”
VIEWS: Nelson dominant
Motivated by a blown lead last week, Cole Nelson was determined to dominate the late innings in a 1-0 win Monday against Kaneland.
It was the type of performance the Spartans’ ace had to have if Sycamore wanted to take the lead in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East conference race and it came a week after he couldn’t retire Morris’ bottom of the order in a series-opening loss to the Redskins.
“Cole was dominant, especially late in the game,” Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. “I think he felt like the Morris game got away from him late and he wasn’t going to let that happen again.”
A workhorse pitcher, fully stretched out, Nelson gets stronger as his pitch count climbs and the game wears on.
“He was behind in the count early,” Cavanaugh said. “But he had a No. 1 pitchers’ mentality. He wasn’t going to leave the game up to the bullpen. After the fourth inning his breaking ball really started to work. Kaneland had nine base runners, but Cole just bore down and made his pitches.”
• James Nokes covers prep sports for the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached via email at