Sweet revenge leads to Sectional

By on June 5, 2014

KHS no-hits ACC, outlasts St. Francis for first Regional crown since ‘11
PLANO—Do you remember what happened the last time Kaneland High School baseball captured a regional?

It led to a pileup on the Silver Cross Field mound in Joliet, Ill.

First things first, however, as the Knights braved the top-seeded St. Francis Saints of Wheaton in the Class 3A Plano Regional final on Saturday morning and won 4-1 in nine innings.

It marks the second regional title in school history and first since the State championship run three years ago. St. Francis beat Kaneland, 3-2 in the Kaneland Regional final of a year ago.

KHS got to exact playoff hurt on St. Francis after beating Aurora Central Catholic by a 12-0 margin in five innings on Friday evening, after losing to the Chargers in the penultimate regular season finale.

KHS also closed out its regular season with a 2-1 win on May 28 in Maple Park over Wheaton Warrenville South.

After losing six out of its previous eight, Kaneland has won three in a row and sits at 18-15 going into the Class 3A Rochelle Sectional.

“It feels really good after last year, losing on our own field. It’s great for our guys to battle, battle, battle and come back, and have heroes you wouldn’t expect. Hats off to Nick Stahl for doing a job today,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said.

Stahl, a late-inning asset for the Knights this year, pitched 2.1 innings of relief and earned the win after relieving starter Curtis Thorson and Nate Hopkins, but also slammed a two-run homer to centerfield to cinch the game in the top of the ninth.

It was his second varsity at-bat of the year.

“He is a P.O. (pitcher only) to the extreme. They do not waste time in the cages. They know their role. I told him there was a chance he might be coming up and he should be ready. I told him to make sure you swing at something that’s your pitch,” Aversa said.

After tying the game in the top of the sixth inning on a single by Tyler Carlson that resulted in two St. Francis errors and allowed Thorson to score all the way from first, the Knights were able to hold St. Francis scoreless in the sixth, seventh and eighth frames.

In the ninth, Nick Stratman was hit by a pitch with one out. Two batters later, Joe Panico laced an RBI double to left center to give KHS the lead for good.

“It wasn’t just on me, it was a whole team win,” Panico said. “The kid left me a fastball. Confidence grew throughout the game. We treated it like any other game and came out on top.”

Stahl, who gave up just one hit and fanned two, allowed two baserunners but left them stranded in the ninth.

The talk of the game wasn’t his pitching performance, however.

“I was thinking straight fastball because he was down in the count. I’m a P.O. so I don’t really hit that much. I don’t really know what happened,” Stahl said.

In the win over the No. 3 seed Chargers, the No. 2 seed Knights scored four in the first, one in the second, five in the third and two in the fourth to trigger the mercy rule scenario.

“We’ve really been working on our approach at the plate,” Aversa said. “Seeing the ball and seeing the zone, we were just patient today.”

Catcher Joe Laudont went 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI, while Carlson went 2-for-3 with a double and RBI.

Hurler Anthony Holubecki (5-2) earned the win while Nick Henne pitched the fifth for the abbreviated no-hitter.

“That’s not a pushover team,” Holubecki said. “The guys did a great job at the plate. Joe called a great game, and I was pretty decent at working ahead.”

Against WWS, Jacob Bachio’s walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth cinched the win for reliever Colton Fellows.

Kaneland was set to face Hampshire Regional champ Sycamore, whom the Knights beat two out of three times this season, in Rochelle. The winner of the sectional semifinal would face either Rochelle or Boylan Catholic on Saturday, June 7.

Editor note: Kaneland lost to Sycamore Wednesday 1-0. Anthony Holubecki pitched 5.1 innings and had nine strikeouts, but was outdueled by Sycamore’s Colan Treml who pitched a seven-inning no hitter, striking out 10 Knights. Kaneland finished the season 18-16 overall, 9-6 in NIB-12 play.