by Mike Slodki
KANELANDâ€”In Mondayâ€™s regional opener play-in game against fifth-seeded Hampshire, the fourth-seeded Knights were bombarded by opposing offense and failed fundamentals.
The Whip-purs put up four runs in the first inning and four runs in the seventh to clinch a 10-6 win, ending the Knights season at 23-13 (14-7 Western Sun Conference) in hot late-spring conditions. KHS committed five errors in the loss. Hampshire improved to 16-17.
The final win total did tie last yearâ€™s all-time mark for season wins, however.
Meanwhile, Hampshire was set to take on top-seeded Burlington Central on Wednesday, with the winner facing either Prairie Ridge or Crystal Lake Central in the Hampshire Regional title game on Saturday, May 29, at 1 p.m.
The Whip-purs jumped on starting pitcher Ty Hamer for four runs in the top of the first, but the Knights came back with two in the bottom of the inning, thanks to RBI singles by Dave Dudzinski and Jake Tickle.
Hampshire put up one in the top of the second for a 5-2 lead and chased Hamer after 1.1 innings (7 H, 5 R).
Dudzinski launched a longball to right field in the bottom of the third to close within 5-3, but Hampshire added one in the sixth and four in the seventh off of Tickle to go up 10-3.
In a last-ditch effort, KHS had runners at first and third with three runs already in. Catcher Aaron Hayman, who subbed for an injured Tyler Callaghan, grounded to short to end the game.
â€œI think these guys had our number today,â€ Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said. â€œHatâ€™s off to them, and itâ€™s too bad we canâ€™t play two out of three.â€
In the final regular season contest of the year, the Knights tied the school record for wins with their 23rd in a 4-3 win at Bartlett High School.
Sam Komel earned the win on the mound against his Upstate Eight Conference opponents with a solid 5.2-inning outing. Komel gave up three runs on three hits, while Dudzinski earned the save with 1.1 innings. Dudzinski struck out three of the five batters he faced in relief.
Komel also helped his cause at the plate with an RBI double.
Under consistently rainy skies and trying for a share of the last-ever Western Sun Conference, the Knights, who trailed DeKalb by one win, got a clutch three-run triple in the top of the seventh to buoy an 8-2 win.
Winning pitcher Steve Colombe went 5.1 innings and allowed two runs on four hits in a winning effort, while Jake Tickle struck out three in 1.2 innings of work for his first save of the year.
Dudzinski singled home Joe Camaliere for the first run of the game, while a pitcherâ€™s throwing error allowed Callaghan to reach base and score Dudzinski and Bobby Thorson for a 3-0 edge.
Camaliere doubled home Jake Fiedler to go up 4-1 in the top of the second. The score remained that way until the bottom of the sixth, when the host Barbs scored once.
After the bases were loaded in the top of the seventh on two walks and a hit batsmen, Landers laced a triple that cleared the bases and gave KHS breathing room.
On May 19, at Elfstrom Stadium in Geneva, Kaneland surrendered four runs to the Barbs in a less-than-stellar fifth inning enroute to a 5-2 loss under the lights. Colombe went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI, while Hamer was tagged with the loss.
With the conclusion of the season, Kaneland varsity baseball says goodbye to seniors Hamer, Hayman, Tickle, Dudzinski, Colombe and Fiedler.
â€œDudzinski came in from basketball again, and we loved his contributions all year. Tickle had the 19-game hit streak; all the seniors had a really good season stepping up,â€ Aversa said.
Photo: Jake Tickle fires toward the plate in the fourth inning of Kanelandâ€™s 10-6 regional opener loss to Hampshire on Monday. Photo by Mike Slodki