Photo: Shortstop Trever Heinle saves the ball from going into the outfield on a high throw while a Yorville player steals second during Kaneland’s home game against Yorkville last season. File Photo
Kaneland nine ready to reach previous heights
by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—If Kaneland baseball has its way, the past stands to serve as the prologue to something bigger and better.
After a thrilling 3A title win at Silver Cross Field in Joliet, Ill., to end 2011, the Knights were upended in the regional semifinal by Northern Illinois Big XII rival DeKalb to conclude 2012.
All the varsity crew from the championship victory have departed, but the imprint from that amazing moment is still felt by current call-ups to the varsity crew.
“All of those players from the state team have graduated now,” seventh-year KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “It means a lot to these juniors and seniors who were in the stands watching how special that run was to State; something they strived to support. They know what it takes without being able to call themselves champs, yet.”
Returning to the varsity ranks from a 24-11 season are Kyle Pollastrini, Matt Limbrunner, Zach Martinelli, Joe Pollastrini, Ty Bellock, Matt Kucera, John Hopkins, Josh Cohrs, Dan Miller, Lane David and Clarke University-bound Blake Sowell.
Newly donning a varsity jersey in 2013 are seniors Austen Davis, Nick Albano, Jake Parry and Josh Sitterly. Juniors are Joe Komel, Tyler Carlson, Curtis Thorson, Lucas Wolski, Nate Hopkins, Nick Henne and Nick Stahl.
It’s up to the new varsity group to strike out the bad taste left by last year’s earlier-than-preferred exit.
“The DeKalb loss was exactly what happens when you think you are owed something that you haven’t gone out and earned,” Aversa said. “We have used that as an early coaching point, but we are now well past that, and those problems from last year are long gone. We are now back to business as usual, focusing on our fourth conference championship in a row.”
Despite the field being covered in snow, which can result in cabin fever, the players are getting their cuts in whenever they can, including evening practices.
“I haven’t seen another group work as much and soak up as much as these kids have. You can just see the burning desire that they all have. Not having to talk about the intangibles of hustle, heart, desire and will makes all the difference in this group,” Aversa said.
With the start of the campaign looming, Aversa’s current projections have an outfield three of Kyle Pollastrini, Martinelli and Miller. Bellock, Kucera, Nate Hopkins and Lucas Wolski would bring depth.
The infield would look like John Hopkins at the hot corner, Joe Pollastrini at shortstop, a platoon of Sowell, Carlson, Davis and Sitterly at second base, and Limbrunner at first. Komel will see time at first and designated hitter, with Carlson seeing time at third along with Parry.
The arms for Kaneland prove to be one of the major strengths of the club with John Hopkins, Limbrunner and Sowell as the top three. Komel will look to shut down late-inning threats in relief. Kyle Pollastrini, Thorson and Stahl also provide depth out of the bullpen. Sitterly, Albano, Joe Pollastrini, Bellock, Nate Hopkins, Davis and Henne could also see key mound-time before the year is out.
Threats hit the NIB-12 landscape with all eyes on KHS, and Aversa is aware of the talent from the area.
“Sycamore and Yorkville are the two who I think are loaded this year, with DeKalb close behind. Morris is always tough, and Rochelle has some talent coming up,” Aversa said. “We will be ready, and the road for conference has to go through Maple Park. It has for the past three years, and until we don’t finish in first, we will continue to think that way,” Aversa said.
The season kicks off in Maple Park on Monday, March 18, against Machesney Park’s Harlem High School. The first NIB-12 East Division matchup is set for Monday, April 8, at Rochelle.
KHS Baseball Roster
Name Projected positions
Nick Albano P
Ty Bellock OF/P
Tyler Carlson IF
Austen Davis IF/P
Nick Henne P
John Hopkins IF/P
Nate Hopkins OF/P
Joe Komel IF/DH/P
Matt Kucera OF
Matt Limbrunner IF/P
Zach Martinelli OF
Dan Miller OF
Jake Parry IF
Joe Pollastrini IF/P
Kyle Pollastrini OF/P
Josh Sitterly IF/P
Blake Sowell IF/P
Nick Stahl P
Curtis Thorson P
Lucas Wolski OF