Tag Archives: Jeff Smith

Baseball fills void with new talent

Photo: Catcher Austin Conard prepares to block Brian Evers at homeplate during last week’s baseball practice. Photo by Mike Slodki

by Mike Slodki
MAPLE PARK—Kaneland High School baseball seems to raise the bar every year, and this season hopes to be no different.

Finishing a school record 23-13 a year ago, the Knights nonetheless finished with a 6-5 regional championship heartbreaker at the hands of Burlington Central.

“That regional game is kind of motivating us and pushing us this year,” fourth-year coach Brian Aversa said. “We’re going to try and top 23 wins this year.”

Gone from the ranks are players like Mike Pritchard, Joe Gura, Jeff Smith and Jay Levita.

“Guys like that are hard to replace, they were something special,” Aversa said.

With arms like Smith gone, it’s up to personnel like senior Steve Colombe to get more mound time.

Pritchard yields way to backstop Aaron Hayman, a senior.

“Aaron learned a lot from Mike and is ready for the rigors of the backstop in general,” Aversa said.

The outfield is projected to have junior Corey Landers in leftfield, and Joe Camaliere returns for his junior year in centerfield, with rightfield an open derby.

Third base will depend on the opposing pitcher, with juniors Drew French and Bobby Thorson hoping for a look, along with fellow junior infielder Sam Komel.

Kyle Davidson and Jake Tickle highlight the shortstop ranks, while Jake Fiedler mans second base.

Dave Dudzinski, Thorson and Komel will guard first base.

‘We have some pretty nice competitions going around that’ll come down to the last couple practices,” Aversa said.

Hayman and Tyler Callaghan, a junior, will see time at the catcher’s spot.

In the pitching rotation, senior Ty Hamer ( a University of Illinois signee), Thorson and Colombe hurl the ball.

“We’ll ride those guys, and they can give us a lot of innings. There’s not an ace, it’s our top three,” Aversa said. “Ty and those guys bring a presence on the mound, and it’s going to be hard getting a hit off them, and it helps the defense.”

Komel and junior Austin Conard also look to be employed in pressure situations.

Other Knights shoring up the varsity ranks are P/1B John Kintz, OF/C Josh Kuefler, P/OF Trevor Wolf, INF Brian Dixon and OF Brian Evers.

The regular season was scheduled to begin on Wednesday at Plainfield North with Western Sun Conference play beginning on Tuesday, April 5, vs. Geneva. The regular season ends at DeKalb on Thursday, May 20.

KHS hands out year-end awards for athletes

Rose, three others highlight senior banquet
MAPLE PARK—The end of the year awards and spring awards were handed out on June 9, recognizing the year-long effort of Knight athletes.

At the Senior Athletic Banquet awards, Knight awards were handed out to the five three-sport athletes from the class of 2009: Katie Hatch for tennis, basketball and track, Chassidy Mangers for cross country, basketball and softball, Curtis Lubic for golf, basketball and baseball, Chris Ott for football, soccer and basketball and Matt Weaver for cross country, wrestling and track.

The female Birkette award went to Mangers, while the male Birkette award found its way to Lubic.

Sara Rose was named the female athlete of the year at KHS, while Mike Pritchard was named male athlete of the year.

For boys track and field, Logan Markuson took the Track MVP, while Nick Sinon won the Field MVP.

Weaver took the Drendel Award home, and seven captains were recognized in the form of Lucas Ross, Weaver, Brendan McCarthy, Colin Zagel, Hayden Johnson, Paul Davies and Joshua Bloome.

Taylor Andrews won the Ron Probst Award.

The boys track had a glut of Western Sun All-Conference reps in the form of Derek Bus, Johnson, Edgar Valle, Markuson, Andrews, Sinon, Bloome and Matt Reusche.

Markuson, Johnson, Valley, Davies, Sinon, Bloome, Bus, Sean Paulick, Andrews and Tommy Whittaker were also highlighted for qualifying for the State gathering at Eastern Illinois University.

For the soccer squad that earned a berth to the regional title match at Burlington Central, Megan Gil, Sarah Goodrich, Paige Rogers and Bridget Crosby were recognized as captains. Crosby was also named most improved player. Savannah Webb took home the rookie of the year. Shelby Koester and Haley Johnson took the coach’s award, while Colleen Gebauer and Gil won the Lady Knights awards. Emily Heimerdinger was named team MVP. Girls soccer had three members named to the All-WSC roster in the form of Gil, Koester and Heimerdinger.

In the freshman soccer ranks, Haley Garcia was awarded Team Leader, Tatiana Brown took home the most improved honor, while Maggie Ruppel won the team spirit award.

In softball, the best offensive player award went to Jessica Lubic and Andrea Potts.

Brianna Hurst was given the best defensive player award. Rose took home the team MVP award, while Jordan Herra took home the most improved honors after her showing at the plate and in the field.

Erin Heyob, Hurst, Mallory Huml, Rose, Mangers and Herra were honored as captains.

Huml, Rose, Potts, Delani Vest and Lubic also brought home All-WSC honors.

For baseball, Curtis Lubic earned the Mr. Kaneland Baseball award, while Pritchard and Joe Gura took the Offensive MVP awards. Jeff Smith won the Defensive MVP award. Joe Spitzzeri took the 41 award, in honor of late teammate Jeff Malewig. Pritchard, Gura and Smith were named to the All-WSC team.

For girls track, Lindsay Gierke, Lisa Roberson and Andie Strang were given the track MVP award, while Kelli Patterson and Jordan Pinkston were named field MVP’s.

Patterson was honored with the Most Improved award.

Laney Deliginais, Alyssa Galvan, Gierke, Patterson, Roberson, Katie Weiss and Lauren Whittaker took home nods for captain.

Named to the all-conference group for the WSC were Whittaker, Gierke, Patterson and Pinkston.

Gierke, Pinkston, Strang, Roberson, Kris Bowen, Sara Wallace and Kelly Evers were also recognized for their State-going effort.

Baseball sees season end at Rockets home

by Mike Slodki
Monday’s Class 3A regional championship showed Kaneland and Burlington Central’s affinity for the long ball.

It was the Rockets who had slightly more of it.

Three costly homers by BC sent Kaneland baseball home for the season in a 6-5 defeat. The loss in windswept conditions ends the memorable season for the Knights at 23-13.

In a season that was accented by the loss of beloved teammate Jeff Malewig in December, the 2009 season is one that won’t soon be forgotten.

“The way we started with all the emotion, we started with these guys and won 23 games, a school record,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “This team is pretty special.”

For the Knights, it’s the third straight season of being ousted in the regional championship.

In 2007, eventual 2A State champ Neuqua Valley beat Kaneland, 4-1. 2008 had Sycamore oust Kaneland 6-5 in Dixon.

In the bottom of the first inning, Knight Jay Levita hit a home run to right centerfield for a 1-0 edge.

In the top of the third inning, Tanner Scott of the Rockets blasted a two-run shot for a 2-1 lead.

The bottom of the third had Jeff Smith reach on a bunt and Jake Fiedler hit a double to put two runners on. Smith scored on a passed ball to tie the game, and Fiedler came home on a fielder’s choice put in play by Joe Gura to take a 3-2 lead.

BC battled back in the fourth when Bill Rodriguez hit a homer to tie the score. Things got bad for KHS when Austin Jarvis hit a homer off Steve Colombe in the top of the fifth to take a 6-3 lead.

The bottom of the fifth saw life from the Knights when Levita hit a two-run shot to close within 6-5.

Ty Hamer shut the Rockets down in the top of the seventh. With one out, Gura drew a walk, but catcher Mike Pritchard grounded into a double play to end the game.

BC’s Nick Hahn earned the win.

On May 27, Kaneland ousted Western Sun Conference rival Rochelle 10-0 in five innings.

Smith gave up just one hit in his complete game effort. Dave Dudzinski’s second-inning homer, Joe Camaliere’s fourth-inning shot and Pritchard’s fifth-inning blast were plenty for the Knights to coast.

The Knights now say goodbye to a cache of seniors: John Rotella, Joe Spitzzeri, Curtis Lubic, Mike and Troy Pritchard, Levita, Ryan Stout, Gura and Smith.

Photo: Tyler Callaghan slides home safely to end the Knights’ 10-0, five-inning win against Rochelle on May 27. Photo by Mike Slodki

Knights earn win against Barbs

Kaneland baseball continues to plug away in the season’s homestretch, and in the process eclipsed last season’s win total.

A 3-2 victory on Tuesday over the rival DeKalb Barbs raised Kaneland’s record to 21-10 with a 12-7 tally in the Western Sun Conference.

Righty Steve Colombe improved to 6-2 on the season and went 6.2 innings while Ty Hamer earned save No. 5 by coaxing the final out.

Mike Pritchard’s triple in the fourth inning scored Jay Levita and gave Kaneland a 1-0 edge.

Jake Fielder hit a single in the bottom of the fifth to score Joe Camaliere, and Jeff Smith came home on an error.

The Knights got some face time at Elfstrom Stadium on Monday against rival Batavia, but lost 4-2 on a late comeback by the Bulldogs.

KHS prepares to suit up against DeKalb in a contest scheduled for Northern Illinois University on Thursday, May 21, at 4 p.m.

It all leads to an IHSA Class 3A Regional showdown at Burlington Central High School against either Hampshire or Rochelle. Besides the top-seeded Knights, who would play on Wednesday, May 27, at 4:30 p.m., (2) Sycamore and (3) Burlington Central make up the rest of the regional.

Knights baseball earns WSC win over Yorkville

Kaneland High School baseball held off a charging Yorkville Foxes squad on Tuesday in Maple Park, but emerged with a 9-6 win.

With the victory, Kaneland baseball improved to 15-7 with a 7-5 mark in Western Sun Conference play.

The win also offsets the 6-0 loss last Wednesday, April 29 suffered at the hands of Batavia, who’s pitcher Alex Karger, threw a 1-hitter.

Knights hurler Steve Colombe improved to 4-1 on the season, while Ty Hamer earned his first save on the year.

Jake Fiedler went 2-for-4 with two runs driven in, and Jeff Smith went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.

In five innings pitched, Colombe allowed six runs, but just one was earned.

Mike Pritchard’s two-run single in the first inning gave Kaneland a 2-0 lead. Smith came home on an error in centerfield in the second for a 3-0 lead, and KHS plated two more runs in the third for a 5-0 lead. Up 7-0 in the fifth inning, Yorkville sent nine men to the plate and scored six runs on just two hits to close within 7-6, but the Knights scored two insurance runs in the bottom of the inning to pad the lead.

Upcoming for Kaneland: a home matchup with Yorkville on Thursday, May 7 and a Saturday battle with visiting Oswego East.

Photo: Kaneland pitcher Steve Colombe fires a strike in the first inning of the Knights’ 9-6 varsity home win against Yorkville on Tuesday. The righty improved to 4-1. Photo by John DiDonna

No stopping Knights baseball

This Kaneland baseball team is on quite a run.

Four consecutive victories this past week brought coach Brian Aversa’s group to 12-3 (4-2 Western Sun Conference).

Last Wednesday, April 15, the Knights wrote off Glenbard South in a 6-5 road win. Steve Colombe improved to 3-0 while Joe Gura collected save No. 2.

On Thursday, Kaneland more than doubled up on the visiting Raiders in an 11-5 win, and lefty Jeff Smith improved to 2-1.

Friday had Ty Hamer nabbing the win (2-0) and Gura getting his third save. Curtis Lubic went 2-for-2 with an RBI and a run scored.

On Saturday, Kaneland beat the visiting Fenton Bison by a 3-0 final thanks to a dominant Troy Pritchard (2-1) and his one-hit shutout.

The Knights were scheduled to visit Rochelle on Wednesday and host the Hubs on Thursday, April 23, and Friday, April 24.

Knights have great road trip, fall at Geneva

Knights baseball played the part of road warriors this week.

For the most part, it was a successful venture.

The Knights sit at 5-2 in the opening part of the season, after having done a road trip through downstate Illinois and Missouri and losing to Geneva on Tuesday 5-3.

Last year’s planned spring break baseball road trip was washed out due to downpours, making the undefeated 2009 road trip a worthwhile venture.

On Thursday, Kaneland thwarted Springfield High School in five innings, 16-4. Friday saw the Knights defeat their Black Knight opponents 7-1, while the JV troops took home a 14-2 win.

On Saturday, the Knights got past St. Mary’s High School in St. Louis by a final of 8-0, while the JV team won by a 15-5 clip.

In the loss against the host Vikings under windy conditions on Tuesday afternoon, Kaneland was fanned 13 times and Viking Riley Perry earned the win (3-0). Kaneland lefty Jeff Smith took the loss to fall to 1-1.

Joe Camaliere scored on a wild pitch in the first inning to go up 1-0. Geneva later took a 2-1 lead. However in the fifth inning, Joe Gura drew a bases loaded walk to tie the score, and catcher Mike Pritchard beat out an infield hit to have Kaneland take a 3-2 lead. In the bottom of the fifth, Geneva slugger Cory Hofstetter slammed a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning for the 5-3 lead which stuck.

Kaneland baseball was set to host Geneva on Wednesday at press time and travel to Geneva on Thursday, April 9.

Photo: Joe Camaliere successfully slides into home for the first run of the game during the Knights’ 5-3 loss at Geneva on Tuesday. Camaliere scored on a wild pitch. Photo by Ben Draper

Kaneland Knights baseball remembers

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.

The 2009 Kaneland baseball squad will sport a "41" patch on their jersey sleeves and an embroidered "41" on thier caps in honor of Jeff Malewig, who was killed in a car accident last year. Malewig's jersey number 41 was retired by Kaneland in a ceremony March 26. In addition, the initials "JM" for Malewig, and "BD" for Blake Denton, who was also killed in the same accident, will be featured on the outfield foul poles.<em> Photos by Sarah Rivers</em>
The 2009 Kaneland baseball squad will sport a "41" patch on their jersey sleeves and an embroidered "41" on thier caps in honor of Jeff Malewig, who was killed in a car accident last year. Malewig's jersey number 41 was retired by Kaneland in a ceremony March 26. In addition, the initials "JM" for Malewig, and "BD" for Blake Denton, who was also killed in the same accident, will be featured on the outfield foul poles. Photos by Sarah Rivers

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.

Spring Sports Preview: After hard times, KHS baseball answers call for 2009 campaign

by Mike Slodki
The past 12 months have seen curveballs thrown at the players on the Kaneland High School baseball team.

Thrown by life, not by pitchers.

First, Joe Spitzzeri dealt with X-Linked lymphoproliferative disease, but found his way back to health and a spot on the team. Then in December the team dealt with the tragic death of teammate Jeff Malewig.

The events of the past year give way to a squad that is familiar with crises, but also conduct baseball matters with maturity.

Along the way, they hope to build on a good 2008, according to third-year coach Brian Aversa.

The 19-12 Knights of a year ago had a regional comeback win over host Dixon before seeing a rally fall short against Sycamore in the title game.

“The hunger is still there. You see a determination from these guys and a deep work ethic, and it’s not something they talk about, but you know it’s there,” Aversa said.

A switch from previous years is that the Knights will look to pitching to get them through games more than relying on hitting.

Coming back to the squad are senior leaders Mike Pritchard and Joe Gura, both all-Western Sun Conference members a year ago.

Pritchard looks to be behind the plate, following in the footsteps of celebrated backstops Brian Claesson and Kevin McMahon. Gura looks to fill the hole at shortstop.

Pritchard hit .377 as a junior, while Gura hit at a .400 clip, going to Aversa’s hope of good balance of senior leadership along with ability from the juniors.

On the mound for the Knights: a list that looks to include seniors Troy Pritchard, Jeff Smith, Gura and Spitzzeri. Patrolling the outfield are projected to be senior Jay Levita and sophomore Joe Camaliere. Candidates for third base include Curtis Lubic.

Other seniors looking to make a contribution are 3B/P John Rotella, OF/P Ryan Stout. Juniors are OF/P Ty Hamer, OF/P Steve Colombe, 1B/P Dave Dudzinski, IF Blake Kendrick, C Aaron Hayman, 2B/SS Jake Fiedler and OF Aaron Lamp.

Kaneland’s third-place conference mark a year ago is something that was a good benchmark and will look to carry the Knights again if the conference is anything like it was a year ago.

“Up and down, the conference will be tough again,” Aversa said. “There is no one you can overlook; Batavia, Sycamore, Geneva have a lot of guys returning that we look to do well against.”

Aversa thinks whatever lineup he dishes out will have the necessary components to do battle in the WSC and beyond.

“We’re looking for a good balance of pitching and depth on defense, and they’re ready.”

4/2/09 Note on omission
In the Elburn Herald’s baseball preview article on March 26, SS/P/2B Jake Tickle was omitted. The sports department regrets the error.