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PREP SOFTBALL INSIDER: Kowalski takes over as Barbs’ ace

Published: Saturday, May 10, 2014 12:59 a.m. CDT • Updated: Saturday, May 10, 2014 6:30 a.m. CDT

SPOTLIGHT ON ...

Baylie Ullmark

Genoa-Kingston, junior, pitcher

Ullmark was the winning pitcher in the Cogs' win over Harvard Thursday, and was 4 for 5 at the plate.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Kaneland at DeKalb, 4:30 p.m. Thursday

This game could decide the Northern Illinois Big 12 East title. The Barbs defeated the Knights in Maple Park back in April.

Marengo at Genoa-Kingston, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday

The Cogs will be tested by the Big Northern East power.

POWER RANKINGS

1. DeKalb (18-5, 6-2 Northern Illinois Big 12 East)

2. Genoa-Kingston (14-7, 4-4 Big Northern East)

3. Kaneland (11-9, 3-2 NI Big 12 East)

4. Sycamore (5-15, 2-6 NI Big 12 East)

5. Indian Creek (8-7, 6-6 Little Ten)

6. Hiawatha (6-7, 4-5 Little Ten)

7. Hinckley-Big Rock (2-10, 2-7 Little Ten)

NOTEBOOK: Kowalski steps up as Barbs ace

Heading into the season, DeKalb softball coach Jeff Davis had two aces he could rely on, senior Katie Kowalski and freshman Morgan Newport.

As the season heads to a close with the postseason around the corner, it's Kowalski who has taken over as the Barbs' ace. She continued her dominance in Thursday's victory over Sycamore, striking out six Spartans in a five-inning complete game.

One thing Kowalski's presence on the mound gives DeKalb coach Jeff Davis is the opportunity to play Newport in right field, where she's a strong defender. Newport had a nice diving catch late in Thursday's contest.

"We're trying to get better defensively," Davis said. "And if that means Katie throwing more innings, I'm sure Morgan's OK about it."

If Kowalski does struggle at some point and Davis does need to go to Newport, she's more than capable of stepping in. But at this point, Davis feels the Barbs are better with the current alignment.

"It doesn't have anything to do with Morgan outside of, we're better defensively with Morgan in the outfield, and Morgan can focus more on hitting the ball, which she's just tearing it up," Davis said.

Newport had two grand slams this week. An inside-the-park grand slam against Yorkville, and another against Sycamore which went over the center field fence at Sycamore High.

Cogs ready for 3A playoffs: When the classification numbers were switched around last season, Genoa-Kingston became one of the smallest schools in Class 3A.

However, there's nothing the Cogs can do about that, except change their schedule around a little bit. That's something G-K coach Mike Lauer did this year, adding some Class 3A teams, including a strong Ottawa program.

"We made some changes in there in terms of trying to add a couple more 3A schools just to help us out," Lauer said.

Of course, G-K continued its series with Sycamore as well. The Cogs earned a win over the Spartans earlier this week. Both teams will compete at the Class 3A Burlington Central Regional, and the win will certainly help the Cogs in terms of seeding.

"We treat it as a game where we really want to come out and be focused as far as where we want to be in the regionals," Lauer said. "I think the kids really understand it."

VIEWS: Spartans playing the spoiler role

In Illinois high school athletics, with the exception of football, every team makes the big dance.

No matter what your record is, you're in the postseason.

Sycamore has had a rough season so far, as the Spartans sit at just 5-15. However, judging by the schedule they've played, the Spartans aren't near as bad as their record.

The Northern Illinois Big 12 East is a very strong softball conference, for starters, and Sycamore coach Jill Carpenter also said her team has faced six or seven Division I pitchers this year, including DeKalb's Katie Kowalski (IPFW) and Kaneland's Angie Morrow (Wisconsin).

"We've faced some quality pitching, and it's hard when you have to be able to match that on the other end sometimes," Carpenter said. "But I told the kids, we can't shy away from the schedule that we're given, and you should feel good about being challenged and find a way to make things an individual challenge. Take your at-bat personal, you against the pitcher when the game gets out of hand."

Sycamore will certainly be underdogs in the Class 3A Burlington Central Regional which includes the host Rockets, Genoa-Kingston, Kaneland and Hampshire.

The Spartans will most likely meet up with Hampshire in the play-in game of the regional. Sycamore defeated the Whip-Purs earlier this season, and the Spartans have played the type of schedule that has prepared them for that spoiler-role.

Sycamore's poor record won't mean much if the Spartans can make a run and pull a couple of upsets.

"We came back from being down 8-0 to win that game (against Hampshire)," Carpenter said. "So I hope we do walk in with some confidence and knowing that we can compete, and we can compete with anyone it's just that we've got to take care of our own business sometimes."

• Steve Nitz is a sports writer for the Daily Chronicle. Write to him at snitz@shawmedia.com and follow him on Twitter @SNitz_DDC.

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