2-1 Knights pay tribute to friends on Opening Day, retire Malewig’s jersey
by Mike Slodki
This opening day was unlike any other, for bittersweet reasons.
There were smiles and tears throught Thursday’s contest between Kaneland and Burlington Central on the diamond, as Kaneland fans and players remembered Jeff Malewig and Blake Denton, who died in a car accident in December.
Before the contest, a moment of silence was observed, KHS coach Brian Aversa led Jeff’s father Tom out to the left field wall where a plaque with Jeff’s number 41 is now placed. The foul poles are now adorned with “BD” and “JM”.
The day’s events, capped by a large crowd in Maple Park, crystalized the relationship between Malewig and the rest of the team.
“He kept them laughing, that’s for sure,” Tom Malewig said. “They all love him. They’re playing real hard out there and from what I can see, it’ll last a while. It’s hard not to get affected by today.”
Wearing jerseys with “41” patches and red wristbands (for Malewig’s love of the St. Louis Cardinals), the Knights took care of business on Thursday against the Burlington Central Rockets by a final of 6-0. Lefty Jeff Smith pitched five innings and righty Steve Colombe finished the final two for a combined three-hitter.
On Saturday, Marmion Academy bested Kaneland in Aurora by a 5-2 final, and the Knights recovered on Monday to handle hosting Plainfield Central 7-3 in eight innings.
Against the Rockets, Joe Gura kicked things off in the bottom of the third with an RBI double and Mike Pritchard hit an RBI groundout for a 2-0 lead. Jake Fiedler smacked an RBI double in the fifth to add on to the lead.
Smith felt his outing was a good way to set the tone for the future.
“We defeated a good team today, and I thought my curveball and control were pretty good,” Smith said.
But the afternoon was about a teammate no longer there.
“We didn’t feel whole out there,” Aversa said. “It didn’t feel right. (Jeff) completed a part of us. It was great to us play with emotion and it was a special day.”
The sophomores fell to Burlington Central, 8-2.
Against the Cadets, Gura was tagged with the loss.
The Knights’ Colombe earned the win against the Wildcats, while Fiedler went 2-for-6. Pritchard went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs driven in.
KHS hits downstate Illinois and beyond for spring break, beginning with a game at Springfield High School on Thursday, April 2, and a game in Farmington, Mo., on Friday, April 3.