Class 3A Rochelle Sectional final
Sycamore (25-12) vs. Rockford Boylan (28-6)
Where: Rochelle High School, 1401 Flagg Road, Rochelle
When: 11 a.m. today
How they got here: Sycamore beat Genoa-Kingston, 7-0, in the Hampshire Regional semifinals; beat Burlington Central, 6-5 in 10 innings, in regional final; beat Kanealnd, 1-0, in the sectional semifinal. Rockford Boylan beat Marengo, 2-1, in the Belvidere North Regional semifinals; beat Belvidere North, 5-0, in regional final; beat Rochelle, 13-0, in the sectional semifinal.
Scouting the Titans: Boylan got a tune-up game in the sectional semifinal as it rolled Rochelle, an unlikely opponent with a losing record. Andy Cropp led off the Rochelle game with a first-pitch home run and Grahm Smolinski had a grand slam to cap the scoring rout. Will Troia is the likely starting pitcher for the NIC-10 regular-season champions.
Boylan competed in Class 4A last season, but received a multiplier waiver this season as the Titans had not won a sectional or two regional titles in the past six school terms. With this season's regional championship its second in four years, Boylan will be back in Class 4A next season.
Outlook: Colan Treml became the fourth Spartans pitcher to throw a no-hitter in Jason Cavanaugh's 17-year tenure as skipper in the 1-0 sectional semifinal win against Kaneland. He hasn't given up an earned run in 18 postseason innings and will be available in relief today. Starting pitcher Cole Nelson (4-3, one save) will look to recapture the form that made him the Sycamore ace at the beginning of the season.
Sycamore spent the entire offseason in preparation for this game. The Spartans mentally prepped with classroom work designed to help them think through various baseball situations. Cavanaugh hoped Sycamore would be at ease when faced with a challenging situation and fresh for the run through a long season. Sycamore shook off a seven-game losing streak at the end of the regular season and is playing its best baseball at the right time.
The Spartans have played a tougher schedule and should have battle-tested nerves after the win against Kaneland on Wednesday. Nelson needs to return to being the dominant pitcher he was at the start of the season and Sycamore has to get a two-out hit when runners are on base. The Spartans' defense has shown it can make enough plays to win a low-scoring game. It could come down to the Sycamore offense, which has generated enough scoring opportunities.
– James Nokes, firstname.lastname@example.org