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Clutch hitting key in Spartans’ postseason run

The wind was supposed to be too strong for anyone to hit a home run. 

Yet, with the center field flags starched from a wind that blew straight in, Brett Weaver continued the clutch hitting trend that has led the Sycamore baseball team to today's 11 a.m. Class 3A Rochelle Sectional final against Rockford Boylan.

Weaver's fifth-inning, game-winning home run in the Spartans' 1-0 win over Kaneland easily cleared the left-field wall after Nathan Haacker's walk-off homer that gave Sycamore a 6-5, 10-inning win in the Hampshire Regional final. Although the Spartans' pitching – specifically Colan Treml, who hasn't allowed a run in 18 postseason innings and has all three Sycamore wins – has been a catalyst for success, the dramatic, timely hitting has led to the past two wins. 

Sycamore is in pursuit of its first sectional title in the 17-year tenure of coach Jason Cavanaugh. 

"We've waited a long time for a sectional title," Cavanaugh said. "We've been here many times. All offseason this is what we've prepared for. We've got here, now we have to show we can get over the hump."

Even though Weaver has played a flawless center field all season, he's shuffled between the Nos. 6 and 7 spots in the batting order. He doesn't have an impressive batting average but grinds out at-bats with a selective eye. Pitchers have to throw strikes to get him out, which has led to a high on-base percentage. 

But Wednesday's blast was his fourth homer of the season, which has made his perseverance worthwhile.

"I knew right when I hit it the ball was gone," Weaver said. "The fastball came in hard and I barreled it up. It felt great. There wasn't any hits in the game at that point."

Preparation at practice helped Weaver on Wednesday.

"Brett has put in the hard work at practice," Cavanaugh said. "It just hasn't always translated to the game. We've worked the last couple practices with a few adjustments and something clicked. He's only hit in the .230s, but he only swings at strikes. He's got a high on-base percentage and doesn't let any fly balls drop in center field. 

"In the fall he's a middle linebacker on the football team, he's a player that loves to go out and compete. He has done the little things to help us win."

With a middle linebacker mentality, Weaver said he will do whatever it takes to get on base. 

"I hadn't had the beat season as a hitter," the junior center fielder said. "But good players live for big moments. They feast on them. This is a great team sport where we all have to be pulling together. We've got to hit, pitch and play defense to advance. 

"I didn't hit the best all year but I had to find ways to get on base. I've been hit by pitch a lot this season. Whatever helps the team win."

After back-to-back one-run wins, the Spartans hope to expand their clutch hitting to make games easier. 

"We are still in search of a big two-out base hit," Cavanaugh said. "It's not an issue of us getting on base, we've done that. It's been an issue of getting guys in. We haven't been able to find two-out hits anywhere. Those are the kind of hits that would put pressure on the other team."

Although Sycamore hasn't had many two-out hits, they've had dramatic hits that have won their past two games. 

"Our pitching has been lights out," Weaver said. "We've got to go out and string together some hits and quality at-bats."

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