Photo: Jake Razo (center) was not afraid to dirty his uniform on the quest for a state title. File Photo
Defending 3A Champs look for precious medals once again
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—2011 was a summer to remember in the annals of the relatively short history of Kaneland High School baseball.
A 13-game winning streak to end the season included the first ever regional, sectional and super-sectional championships for the 26-10 Knights, and ended with dominant showings against Waterloo and Oak Forest in the Class 3A State finals in Joliet, Ill. resulting in State hardware.
For the first time ever, coach Brian Aversa and company go into a season calling themselves defending champs.
“We have to get back to doing the work that we did last year,” the sixth-year coach said. “Coming into this season, I think the guys understood that. We’re where last year isn’t an expectation, but it’s what could happen with hard work.”
Aversa, who has compiled a record of 109-61 as Knights skipper, knows he’s got roles to fill on the diamond after last year’s captain core finished out their senior campaigns a year ago.
“We were state champs last year, but we’re not this year. We can get there, but we have to take care of A, B, C, D and E,” Aversa said.
Kaneland hopes to continue the streak of a Northern Illinois Big XII rep making it to the State finals, as LaSalle-Peru made it in 2009, and DeKalb did the same in 2010.
“Our schedule prepares us very well; we have Plainfield North, Burlington Central and Marmion. I don’t know if you can get much tougher than that,” Aversa said.
Jake Razo, Tyler Heinle and left-hander Drew Peters shore up the Knights lineup and played important roles in the State run. Razo in the outfield, Heinle at the backstop and Drew Peters on the mound take the reigns as leaders.
“They’re leaders and will lead by example. That will filter down to the younger players and even the seniors,” Aversa said.
The pitching rotation comes with the State-championship winning hurler Peters, junior John Hopkins, righty seniors Trevor Storck and Bryan Van Bogaert. With the bullpen being a work in progress, the hope is someone emerging like last year’s late season closer Kyle Davidson.
The outfield loses some key personnel to graduation, but Aversa is eager to see what the new crew can do.
“We have great speed out there, we have guys like Razo, Ray Barry, Quinn Buschbacher, Kyle Pollastrini, Mike Tattoni. They are all speed guys,” Aversa.
With guys like Bobby Thorson, who made a case for “Mr. June”, and Sam Komel no longer patrolling the infield, Kaneland hopes it’s set for 2012.
Senior Tom Fox earns a regular starting gig at third base.
“Tom will be a big surprise, and he has a great baseball mind and played in the shadow of Bobby and Drew French and getting more confidence in his abilities,” Aversa said.
Trever Heinle takes over at shortstop, and junior Joe Pollastrini mans second. Jordan Jones and Peters will split time at first base.
Kaneland knows the NIB-12 setup makes the lineup battle-tested and could lead to potentially bigger things, hopefully on par with last year.
“DeKalb will be up there, and we can’t look past schools like Yorkville and Rochelle; they finished last but run a regional. We’re going to take it one series at a time,” Aversa said.
The Knights’ journey was set to begin on Wednesday at Plainfield North, and they head to Burlington Central on Thursday, March 22.