Tag Archives: Steve Colombe

All-WSC, team awards handed out at KHS

KANELAND—Kaneland High School dished out end of the year and spring speason sports awards last week.

In Knights boys track and field, Logan Markuson was named the Track MVP, while Nick Sinon, state champ in high jump, was named Field MVP. Edgar Valle, also a state champ as part of the 4×400 relay , was named recipient of the Drendel Award. Markuson, Derek Bus, Joe Levita, Brett Ketza, Justin Choate and Sinon were recognized as captains. Andrew Essex was named winner of the Ron Probst Award. Sinon, Markuson, Taylor Andrews, Valle, Bus, Matt Reusche, Matt Spitzzeri, Sean Paulick, Tommy Whittaker, Dominic Furco, Trevor Holm and Levita were recognized as the final Kaneland representatives for the all-Western Sun Conference team.

Brandon Cottier, Essex, Curtis Secrest, Whittaker, Spitzzeri, Valle, Bus, Taylor Andrews, Markuson, Levita, Holm and Sinon were all lauded for their trip to the Class 2A State Finals in Charleston, Ill.

For girls track, Lisa Roberson and Andie Strang, both State-goers, were named co-Track MVP’s, while Brooke Patterson, fresh off a trip to Charleston, was named field MVP.

Mel Mazuc and Nicole Ketza were part of a group of three named most improved field athletes, along with Briana Stark in long jump. Hurdler Hillary Luse took the most improved track athlete award.

Roberson and Sydney Bilotta were recognized as captains, while Patterson, Ashley Castellanos and Gabby Aguirre were honored for their All-Western Sun Conference performances.

Strang (800 meter run, 4x800m relay), Roberson and Kris Bowen (4x800m), Sara Wallace (pole vault), Jessica Stouffer (4x800m), Patterson (pole vault, triple jump) and Castellanos (long jump) were lauded for their State trip.

For the 20-win softball team, first-year coach Brian Willis gave most outstanding defensive player to Jordan Hester and most outstanding offensive player to Andrea Dimmig-Potts. Samantha Hansen took home the most improved player award, Kristen Stralka and Brittany Davis got in on the Lady Knight Award, while 13-win pitcher Delani Vest was given the most outstanding player award.

In the freshman softball ranks, Elizabeth Eckert and Sarah Grams took the co-MVP honors, while Danielle McCormack won the Kaneland Knight award.

For baseball, Dave Dudzinski and Bobby Thorson were named recipients of the Mr. Kaneland Baseball award.

Jake Tickle, he of the 19-game hit streak during the season, was named offensive MVP, and Steve Colombe was crowned defensive MVP.

The 41 Award, in honor or Jeff Malewig, was given to Tickle and Jake Fiedler.

Thorson, Fiedler, Colombe and Tickle were all recognized for their All-Western Sun Conference honors.

For the 15-win girls soccer team’s history- making season, Megan Gil, Haley Johnson, Shelby Koester, Colleen Gebauer and Emily Heimerdinger were lauded for their captain-ship.

Amy Fabrizius was given the most improved player honor, and freshman goalkeeper Jordan Ginther was named Rookie of the Year.

Sophie Blank, Andie Bruce and Natalie Swieca won the coach’s award. Gebauer and Katie Taylor were co-winners of the Lady Knights Award, while Heimerdinger and Gil took the MVP honors.

For the final awards of the night, the female Birkette award was given to Roberson. Markuson and Bus took home the male Birkette award.

Markuson was honored with the Male Athlete of the Year award, while Roberson was given the Female Athlete of the Year award.

Levita, for his time in cross country, wrestling and track, was honored for his three-sport commitment.

Photo: Lisa Roberson, shown here in relay action in Charleston, Ill., two weeks ago, was awarded Female Athlete of the Year and Female Birkette Award winner at last week’s 2010 Senior Athletic Banquet Awards. File Photo

KHS falls to Hampshire in season-ender

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—In Monday’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 year’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.

“I think these guys had our number today,” Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said. “Hat’s off to them, and it’s too bad we can’t play two out of three.”

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 pitcher’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.

“Dudzinski 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,” Aversa said.

Photo: Jake Tickle fires toward the plate in the fourth inning of Kaneland’s 10-6 regional opener loss to Hampshire on Monday. Photo by Mike Slodki

Knight sluggers split week with Yorkville, beat OEHS

KANELAND—It looks like the Kaneland baseball roster has no problem scoring runs.
Now, all that’s left is making sure that always translates to wins.

Using a penchant for extra-base hits, the Knights went to Oswego East on Saturday and defeated the Wolves 11-6. That was on the heels of an 11-5 win at Yorkville on Thursday.

The week began with a 14-12 loss to those same Foxes at KHS on May 5.

The Knights now stand at 18-10, with a 10-5 record in the final season of Western Sun Conference play.

The Knights used the strength of an eight-spot in the top of the second inning on Saturday, and the steady arm of Sam Komel (3-2). Komel went six innings and allowed five earned runs on six hits, while striking out four.

Jake Tickle went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI, while Bobby Thorson went 3-for-4 with four runs scored, a HR and 3 RBI.

Kaneland was faced with a 2-0 deficit on Thursday but scored one in the third, three in the fourth and five in the fifth to fuel the victory over Yorkville. Steve Colombe improved to 4-3 while giving up five runs in the complete game.

Cory Landers of Kaneland went 4-for-4 with a double, HR and 3 RBI. Teammate Tyler Callaghan went 2-for-3 with a run and two RBI.

In the loss against Yorkville, the Knights found themselves down 9-1 in the bottom of the third before scoring four to make it 9-5. After Yorkvile made it 11-5, Kaneland came back to make it 11-10 after four but could get no closer.

Tickle went 2-for-3 with a HR, and Thorson doubled and homered with four RBI.

On the horizon for the Knights is a matchup with Sycamore at Kishwaukee Junior College in Malta on Thursday, May 13, and a battle in Maple Park against those same Spartans on Friday, May 14.

Baseball improves to 16-9

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Kaneland High School baseball isn’t in the habit of nice and easy wins, but they’re garnering wins nonetheless against their WSC brethren.

Knight baseball gave its fans some free diamond action on April 28 in Batavia, as it needed 10 innings to take care of the host Bulldogs, 7-4.

Kaneland scored one in the seventh to help send the game to extras before putting up a 3-spot in the 10th.

Jake Tickle pitched the final three for the win, allowing one run on two hits. Tickle also went 2-for-4 with an RBI. Bobby Thorson went 2-for-5 with two RBI.

Kaneland swept the Bulldogs with a 7-2 win on Thursday. Steve Colombe had a complete-game outing (3-3) and fanned five in the win.

Joe Camaliere had a 2-for-3 afternoon with a double and RBI.

Jake Tickle’s RBI single led to extending his hit streak to 18 games.

Against the host Foxes on Tuesday, Kaneland put up eight runs in the first two innings, but saw YHS storm back to tie it with five in the third and three in the fifth. KHS then manufactured a run in the seventh for a 9-8 win.

“I like the way we came out ready to go,” KHS coach Brian Aversa said. “But we can’t sit back and give up eight runs like we did.”

Tickle improved to 7-0 pitching the final two innings in relief, finding a way to contribute even with his 18-game hit streak coming to an end.

“That’s why Jake’s so valuable, because he’s so versatile. He can come in after being DH and get the win for us,” Aversa said.

“We were just pumped that we got that run in the seventh, and we knew we had to get down to business,” Tickle said.

The Knights take on the host Foxes on Thursday, May 6, at 4:30 p.m., and visit Oswego East High School on Saturday, May 8, at 10 a.m.

KHS Knights play Batmen, put up 11 runs vs. Batavia

KANELAND—After a bump in the road, Knights baseball broke out the bats to get it on the right track once again.

Kaneland (13-9, 6-4 Western Sun Conference) trounced visiting Batavia on Tuesday in six innings, 11-1.

The Knights lost 6-5 on Saturday afternoon to visiting Westminster Christian High School of Elgin by a 6-5 result. The setback ended Kaneland’s five-game winning streak.

The Knights amassed 59 runs during the streak.

After allowing a first-inning run to the Bulldogs, KHS scored one in the second, three in the fifth and seven in the sixth, capped by a Dave Dudzinski (7 RBI) walk-off grand slam.

With a single, Jake Tickle increased his hitting streak to 16 games.

Against WC, KHS was up 5-0 after the second inning, but six runs in the top of the fourth, with five scoring off of errors, spelled doom for the Knights.

Sam Komel took the loss on Saturday, despite giving up only one earned run. Komel (2-2) struck out eight batters on the afternoon.

Dudzinski went 2-for-4 with an RBI, while Bobby Thorson went 2-for-3 with a run and RBI.

Kaneland pounded Rochelle on Thursday by a 12-5 score. Steve Colombe, with six innings on the mound, improved to 2-2 and struck out five Hubs.

Bobby Thorson went 2-for-4 with a double and three runs scored and 2 RBI.

Catcher Tyler Callaghan went 4-for-5 with a home run and 4 RBI.

Kaneland scored five runs in the first, three in the second and three in the third to hold the host Hubs at bay.

Rochelle, with seven errors in the field, tallied 16 miscues on the three-game series.

On April 21, Kaneland hosted Rochelle and won 10-3. Thorson went the distance and struck out nine while scattering four hits.

Dudzinski went 3-for-3 with three runs scored and a HR, while Callaghan went 2-for-4 with a double and RBI. Kaneland scored three in the first and three in the sixth to support the winning effort.

Callaghan HR caps comeback at Geneva

by Mike Slodki
KANELAND—Looks like Kaneland’s plan on the drawing board worked to perfection in order to stop a losing streak to Geneva.

Use a Tyler Callaghan two-run homer in the top of the seventh in order to come back from a 6-1 deficit, and put out a rally in the last of the inning, thanks to a gutsy mound performance by Steve Colombe.

All in a day’s work in an 8-6 win at Geneva on Tuesday to improve to 7-6 (1-2 Western Sun Conference). The Knights also swept host Marengo in a Saturday doubleheader, 5-4 and 12-3. The three-game win streak started after dropping a 12-11 result vs. Geneva on Thursday in Maple Park.

In the seventh inning of a 6-6 tie on Tuesday, Jake Tickle hit a one-out single. After the second out, catcher Callaghan blasted a pitch to left-center field to give KHS an 8-6 lead.

Things got dicey in the bottom of the seventh as the first two runners for Geneva reached base and slugger Michael Monaghan came up to bat. But Colombe (1-2) forced a flyout to right field and then coaxed a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.

Callaghan knew he had to come through in order to give Kaneland the upper hand going into the bottom of the inning.

“They like to go out there and attack with curveballs,” Callaghan said. “We’ve faced these pitchers before and I just got a good pitch to hit.”

Colombe struck out three and gave up five earned runs on nine hits for his first win of the season.

Jake Fielder went 3-for-4 with an RBI while Callaghan went 3-for-4 with three runs scored.

Down 5-0 in the third, KHS got its first run when Bobby Thorson’s groundout to first scored Ty Hamer who had lead off with a single.

Hamer hit a two-run shot in the fourth to make 6-3. Down 6-4 in the sixth, Callaghan reached on an error, and Colombe’s grounder moved him to third after a misplayed ball. Hamer walked and Fielder drove home Callaghan on a single. Joe Camaliere followed with a sac fly RBI to tie the score and set the stage for late-inning heroics.

Against the host Indians, Drew French (1-0) earned the win in game 1 with 1.2 innings of relief and three K’s. Hamer picked up the save getting the final strikeout.

Down 4-1 after four innings of the first game, Kaneland scored one in the fifth and sixth while putting up two in the seventh.

Fielder went 2-for-4 with a run, while Kyle Davidson went 2-for-3 with 2 RBI.

In game two, Tickle improved to 3-0 and allowed only one run on three hits.

Dave Dudzinski went 4-for-4 with three RBI.

Down 1-0 in the second, Kaneland began a streak of five straight innings in the scoring column, including six in the third and two in the fourth.

In last week’s loss to the Vikings, Davidson went 2-for-4 with a double, RBI and run scored while Thorson went 2-for-3 with a double.

The Knights went out to a 4-0 lead after two before Geneva scored five in the third. The Knights led 6-5 in the fourth leading to the Vikings scoring three in the bottom frame to go ahead 8-6. With a three-spot in the fifth, the Knights led 9-8 before the two squads exchanged two-run innings in the sixth. The Vikings tagged Dudzinski for two runs in the bottom of the seventh for the win.

Awaiting KHS is a road trip to Glenbard South on Thursday, April 15.

Photo: Shortstop Kyle Davidson does his part for a fifth-inning double play in Monday’s 8-6 win at Geneva. Photo by Mike Slodki

Baseball sits at 4-5; hits Ky.

KANELAND—Geneva gave Kaneland baseball a rude enough awakening at the beginning of Western Sun Conference play that made staying in Kentucky look like a better option.

Following an annual road trip during spring break, the Knights (4-5, 0-1 Western Sun Conference) were felled by Geneva on Tuesday, 23-9.

The game, originally marked for Maple Park, was switched to the Vikings’ turf due to unplayable fields at KHS.

Ty Hamer earned the loss, giving up 12 runs on 15 hits, but struck out seven in five innings.

Geneva’s Chris Hipchen had a huge day, going 4-for-4 with five runs scored and three home runs with 4 RBI. Michael Monaghan went 3-for-6 with 2 HR and 4 RBI.

For Kaneland, Dave Dudzinski went 3-for-4 with a double and 2 RBI. Tyler Callaghan went 2-for-3 with a homer and 3 RBI.

On March 31, the Knights began their trip down south and repelled Grayson County by a final of 3-2 on the strength of single runs in the first three innings.

The hosts put up a two-spot in the fourth for the remainder of the scoring.

University of Illinois-bound Hamer (1-2) went six innings on the hill and gave up just one earned run on four hits while striking out nine.

Murray State-bound Tyler Saltsman took the loss. Dudzinski nabbed the save for KHS, scattering one hit.

Knight Bobby Thorson went 2-for-3 with a walk, while Dudzinski helped his cause at the plate with a homer and two runs batted in. Jake Fiedler went 1-for-4 with a double, stolen base and run scored.

On Thursday, the Knights solved the sixth-ranked team in Kentucky, Apollo High School, by a final of 2-1. After Apollo scored one in the second, the Knights got one in the third and one in the fifth. Bobby Thorson (1-0) went the distance and struck out cleanup hitter Nick Laster with the bases loaded to end the game. Thorson fanned seven in the effort. Fielder went 2-for-3 with an RBI, while catcher Aaron Hayman went 1-for-2 with two runs scored.

On Friday against Hancock County, Kaneland fell victim to a 9-7 loss.

Down 5-0 after three innings, Kaneland scored one in the fourth before the hosts put up three in the bottom of the fifth to make it 8-1.

Kaneland scored five in the top of the sixth to make it 8-6 before the two teams exchanged single runs for the remainder of the scoring.

Outfielder Joe Camaliere scored three runs and was hit twice in the batter’s box.

Steve Colombe (0-2) surrendered five runs on four hits to get tagged with the loss.

Against McClean County on Friday, Kaneland put up three runs each in the fourth, fifth and sixth to buoy their fortunes in a 10-5 win. Jake Tickle (2-0) went three innings and struck out five.

Fiedler went 2-for-4, Thorson went 2-for-3 with two runs scored along with a double, triple and 4 RBI. Teammate Dudzinski went 2-for-4 with a run and RBI.

The varsity troops try to improve their mark on Thursday, April 8, vs. Geneva and at Marengo on Saturday, April 10, with a doubleheader.

Photo: Junior Tyler Callaghan, shown in earlier action, had a homer and three RBI at Geneva on Tuesday.
File Photo

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 journey ends

Photo: Dave Dudzinski (file photo).

Knights hoopsters eliminated by DeKalb in 50-47 heartbreaker
by Mike Slodki
Pieces were in place for a storybook ending during Friday night’s 3A Kaneland Regional Championship.

Down 49-42 with 39.1 seconds remaining against top-seeded DeKalb, Kaneland fired off five quick point. They were down by two and had the ball with 9.4 seconds left.

However, the storybook ending’s final chapter was cut off and the 2009-10 saga ended with a 50-47 loss in Maple Park.

Kaneland is still looking for its first regional title since 1999. They allowed themselves the opportunity for championship glory with a 48-45 win over Hampshire on March 3.

Dave Dudzinski, playing his final game in a Knights uniform, finished with 23 points. Counterpart Jordan Threloff had 18 points, and Barbs guard Dylan Donnelly had 17.

Going into the fourth quarter down 39-36, Kaneland found itself in desperation mode with 3:52 to go and down 45-38 after a Donnelly trey.

A Chaon Denlinger baseline jumper closed to within 45-40, but two foul shots by DeKalb with 46.8 to go made it 47-40. After two more freebies by Threloff put the Knights in the seven-point hole, Steve Colombe nailed a three and then later got a layup after a DeKalb turnover to close within 49-47 with 16.2 left.

With DeKalb’s Pat Rourke then missing the front end of a one-and-one, Dudzinski grabbed the rebound and a timeout was called.

Colombe inbounded the ball to Ryley Bailey who passed to Dudzinski near the basket, but the official whistled the Holy Cross-signee on a traveling violation, drawing the ire of players and Kaneland fans alike.

Rourke then made one free throw with .8 seconds to go to cement the victory.

“Dudzinski got the ball and was in a position to score and unfortunately the call was made,” first-year coach Brian Johnson said.

Johnson’s plan had Dudzinski for the final shot or kicking it out to Denlinger for a game-winning three try.

Kaneland led 17-16 after the first eight minutes and made five straight shots to go up 15-6 before DeKalb closed the gap.

Toward the end of the first half, Dudzinski hit the hoop for two baskets and gave KHS a 29-28 lead going into the locker room.

Kaneland went cold in the third quarter, going only 2-for-8 from the field. Down 39-33, Bailey launched a deep three-pointer that beat the buzzer and brought the deficit to 39-36.

Johnson reflected on the character of the players to draw themselves in a position to win, rather than the muddled outcome.

“I came in as a first-year coach and challenged them to grow as a team and grow as young men; they gave me all they had,” Johnson said.

The Knights saw their season end at 17-10, up from 13-13 the previous year.

Kaneland earned its revenge from last year’s regional opening loss to the Whip-purs a year ago with 22 points from Dudzinski. Shyler Ralphs of Hampshire and teammate Justin Beiber led their side with 12 each.

The Knights made seven foul shots—all by Dudzinski who was perfect from the line on the night.

In the first frame, Hampshire rained down three three-pointers to take a 9-6 lead, but with a Bailey basket down low, the lead was slimmed to 9-8 with 4:21 to go.

After Hampshire made it 11-8, Dudzinski sank a three with 42.3 seconds left to tie the game and then dunked with 5 ticks left for Kaneland to go up 13-11 after one.

Hampshire made five out of six shot attempts and added a foul shot to go up 25-22 with 1:21 left in the second quarter.

Williams sank a three to tie the score at 25 with 1:14 to go, and Bailey found Dudzinski on a lay-in underneath with 36.9 to go to go up 27-25.

However, the Knights soon fouled Bieber, and he went to the line to make three shots with 3.4 seconds left. Hampshire went into the locker room up 28-27.

Kaneland came out in the third quarter on a tear, going up 35-28 with 4:52 remaining, thanks to baskets from Bailey, Denlinger and Dudzinski. When Hampshire cut it to three, Colombe hit a jumper to go up 37-32 with 1:06 to go.

When Kaneland matched its biggest lead in the fourth quarter at 39-32 with 7:32 to go, Hampshire got its second wind and cut the lead to 41-40 with 3:47 to go.

Dudzinski came through with a three-point play to make it 44-40 with 1:58 remaining.

After three foul shots by the Whip-purs made it 44-43, Dudzinski found his way for another basket with 1:08 to go, giving KHS a 46-43 lead.

After a Hampshire basket with 51.9 to go cut the deficit to one, Dudzinski was later fouled on an inbound pass and sank two foul shots with 9.8 to give the Knights a 48-45 lead.

The Whip-purs had one last chance, and Brock Ralps attempted a three-pointer while double-teamed that clanked off the front of the rim.

With the conclusion of the season, the Knights say goodbye to seniors Bailey, Danilo Bruno, Colombe, Sean Paulick, Williams and Dudzinski.

Knights beat bulldogs

Photo: Ryley Bailey (10) tries weaving around Batavia’s defense in the first quarter of the Knights’ 51-45 win on Friday, the first win in three years in that rivalry.
Photo by Ben Draper

KHS boys hoops finishes regular season 16-9
by Mike Slodki
BATAVIA—Three years of frustration went a long way to being dealt with on Friday.

Playing four quarters of exceptional ball on Friday night under the bright lights and tradition of Batavia High School, the Knights never trailed and ended the regular season on a high note with a 51-45 win over the Bulldogs.

The final Western Sun Conference game in both schools’ history marked Kaneland’s first win over Batavia since a 59-58 thriller over the Bulldogs in Maple Park in February 2007.

Some noteworthy markers of frustration for KHS in the recent rivalry was a 42-40 loss at Kaneland on Jan. 8 that came down to a final three-point try.

On Feb. 27, 2009, Mike Pritchard’s difficult shot was ruled a two-pointer instead of a game-tying three in a 54-53 loss.

Players like Steve Colombe think that this win could not have come at a better juncture in the season.

“It’s definitely a great accomplishment to beat Batavia,” Colombe said. “Coach Johnson preached resilience today, and we needed the execution down the stretch.”

Also provided was a little relief that the same situation from last year’s regular season finale didn’t happen this season.

“Yeah, at least it didn’t come down to that tonight and we put it away early,” Colombe said.
Kaneland finished the regular season at 16-9 (7-7 WSC).

Batavia finished 17-8 in regular season play.

Coach Brian Johnson stressed the team find an edge to not relinquish the lead to a historically tenacious Bulldogs squad.

“It’s such a great program with a great coach, and I hope Kaneland can get there at some point,” Johnson said. “We talked before the game about having resilience and being able to handle the ups and downs.”

Dave Dudzinski, guarded by two-to-three defenders the entire game, finished with a game-high 26 points.

Jesse Coffey led the Bulldogs with 11.

Both teams did fairly well on the foul shot end, with KHS going 15-for-23 and Batavia making 15-of-22.

Traditionally a prolific perimeter team, Batavia only converted two three-pointers.

Two shots by Ryley Bailey, a basket by Colombe and a jumper by Dudzinski gave the Knights a quick 8-0 lead 4 minutes, 24 seconds into the contest.

While Batavia came back with five points before the end of the frame, Dudzinski managed an emphatic rejection to keep the score 8-5.

In the second, with KHS scoring already scoring five unanswered, Dudzinski was manhandled by two Batavia defenders and still managed to sink a shot and convert a three-point play to go up 16-7 with 5:05 to go.

Dudzinski later hit a basket to stop a two-minute scoring drought and go up 18-11. After Coffey and Ricky Clopton hit shots to close within 18-17 with 18.5 to go in the half, Tyler Callaghan’s putback with 8.2 ticks remaining gave KHS a 20-17 halftime lead going into the locker room.

The third quarter featured the Knights going on a 13-5 run. A baseline jumper by Colombe, another three-point play by Dudzinski and two free throws by the Holy Cross-signee gave Kaneland a 27-19 lead with 3:48 remaining.

After Bailey made a shot, Dudzinski hit two more free throws and another lay-in for the biggest lead of the night at 33-21 with 1:30 remaining in the quarter. BHS made one foul shot 15 seconds later and made it 33-22 at the end of the third.

After Chaon Denlinger, Dudzinski hit one free throw and Donovan Williams converted at the top of the key to give Kaneland a 38-24 lead with 6:26 remaining.

Kaneland would then muscle its way to the foul line and make 7-of-11 opportunities, and with Williams’ next jumper, saw its lead increase to 50-34 with 1:58 to go, the biggest lead of the night.

Even with Batavia scoring the last eight points of the night, Kaneland proved victorious.

Batavia, the 12th seed in the Neuqua Valley Sectional, defeated (21) Glenbard West on Monday out at Waubonsie Valley by a 67-60 score. The Bulldogs were set to take on (5) Oswego East on Wednesday, while the Knights, hosts of their Class 3A regional, were set to play (3) Hampshire, after the Whip-purs’ 54-48 comeback win on Monday over (6) Rochelle.

Meanwhile, the (4) Sycamore Spartans outlasted the fifth-seed Burlington Central Rockets by a final of 66-61 on Monday and will face top-seeded DeKalb on Thursday.

United They Fall

by Mike Slodki
Kaneland High School boys basketball got yet another look at the bright lights of the United Center on Saturday afternoon.

Unfortunately, they also got the wrong look at the result against rival Geneva.

Despite leading the game with under five minutes left, Geneva closed the contest with a 14-4 run en-route to handing KHS a 49-40 setback.

The game marked the last Kaneland-Geneva boys contest for the foreseeable future with both teams leaving the expiring Western Sun conference.

The last time Kaneland met Geneva at the home of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and the boys was back on Dec. 31, 2008, which resulted in a 58-39 loss.

The Knights also found time to defeat host Marengo on Feb. 17 by a 45-25 clip.

Kaneland now sits at 15-9 (6-7 Western Sun Conference), with one game remaining in the regular season before Class 3A Regional action begins.

Knight Dave Dudzinski (55) goes sky-high on the United Center floor during Saturday’s 49-40 loss to Geneva. The senior had 20 points. Photo by Ben Draper
Knights center Dave Dudzinski had little problem adjusting to the NBA-regulation court and bright lights at the beginning. The Holy Cross-bound senior sank two three-pointers and scored the first eight KHS points to lead Geneva 8-1 three minutes, one second into the affair.

“Dave still got his (20) points and nothing really changed on the floor,” KHS coach Brian Johnson said. “He’ll be playing on the big stage in the future.”

“We got used to it pretty good,” Dudzinski said. “The flow of the game didn’t really affect us being on the court. It was exciting for us, but our main goal is to get to NIU (Class 3 Super Sectional).

Geneva hit two trifectas to close within 8-7, but Kaneland’s Matt Spitzzeri hit a shot to make it 10-7 with 1:05 to go. Geneva hit a coast-to-coast layup at the buzzer to close within 10-9.

With Kaneland employing two Donovan Williams buckets sandwiched around a Dudzinski field goal to go up 19-14 with 4:09 left, the Vikings used four consecutive foul shots to close the game to one with 2:41 remaining in the half.

Steve Colombe (21) shoots a baseline jumper during Saturday afternoon’s 49-40 setback to Geneva in Chicago. Photo by Ben Draper
The two squads missed six combined shots to go into the locker rooms at the same score.

Geneva got hot right on the heels of Kaneland converting a foul shot and three consecutive shots for a 26-24 Knights lead with 4:39 left in the third quarter.

Geneva then scored the next eight points to take a 32-26 lead with 1:59 to go.

The Knights came back furiously led by a two-handed dunk by Dudzinski, an underneath basket by Steve Colombe and a drive by Taylor Andrews that tied matters at 32.

In the fourth, Williams got a feed from Ryley Bailey on a layup with 6:15 remaining for a 36-35 lead, which would mark the Knights’ last of the afternoon.

The Vikings scored eight unanswered to take a 43-36 lead with 3:39 remaining.

Dudzinski hit a basket and two free throws to close within 43-40 with 2:50 remaining, but Geneva’s aggressive offense led to five trips to the charity stripe that added the last six points.

“We hit highs and lows in the second half,” Johnson said. “Geneva forced us to play a little quicker.”

In the win over Marengo, Chaon Denlinger had a game-high 15 points, while Colombe had 11.

Kaneland led 16-3 after one and maintained a 24-12 lead going into the locker room.

The Knights opened the floodgates by routes 23 and 20 with a 13-4 third quarter to go up 37-16.

Kaneland has rival Batavia at the home of the Bulldogs for the final time as WSC rivals on Friday, Feb. 26.

On Wednesday, March 3, the Knights face the winner of the Hampshire-Rochelle matchup in the Kaneland Regional’s semifinal at 7:30 p.m.

Knights sink Sycamore on Williams basket, 48-46

by Mike Slodki
SYCAMORE—Donovan Williams had plenty to say about the finish between Kaneland and Sycamore on Friday night off of Route 23.

He let his shot do the talking.

Putting up only six points, the senior had the two most important points of the game, sinking a 12-foot jumper with five seconds left to break a tie-game and propel the Knights to a 48-46 win.

“We had a set play and I was supposed to come off that screen,” Williams said. “It was supposed to be an alley-oop but they left me open and I just took the shot.”

Williams handled most of the point duties due to Ryley Bailey being shelved due to leg injury.

“Ryley usually handles point guard, but I feel comfortable bringing it up whenever I can,” Williams said.

The season-series sweep gives KHS a 14-8 record with a 6-6 record in the final Western Sun Conference season. Three regular season games are left.

Center Dave Dudzinski led the Knights with 13 points, as did Steve Colombe. Sycamore’s Sam Ford had a game-high 21.

In the fourth, Chaon Denlinger nailed a shot 13 seconds into the fourth to close within 40-37. Sycamore missed on five straight shot attempts until Taylor Andrews of Kaneland put back a Dudzinski miss and was fouled.

The ensuing foul shot tied the game at 40 with 4:28 to go.

“Taylor didn’t play the whole game until then,” KHS coach Brian Johnson said. “Taylor seems to find holes a lot and he got the ball, went up strong and makes a huge free throw to tie the game. That definitely gave us momentum.”

Dudzinski converted an offensive board with 3:33 to go to put Kaneland ahead 42-40, and Kory Harner’s three-pointer with 2:48 left gave KHS a 45-40 lead. Sycamore cut it to three with 1:59 to go and Ford’s two free throws with 54.0 seconds left cut it to one point.

Dudzinski made the first of two foul attempts with 43.5 ticks left to make it 46-44 until Ford tied it with a jumper with 25.9 to set up the final possession that led to Williams’ winning shot.

After calling timeout with 4.3 seconds left, Sycamore’s passes were too errant to make anything happen, and the clock ran out.

The Knights take on Geneva at the United Center in Chicago for the first time since Dec. 31, 2008, on Saturday, Feb. 20, at 2 p.m.

Kaneland boys downed by DeKalb, handle Hampshire

Kaneland boys hoops was still stumped by DeKalb on Friday, but managed to pass the Hampshire test on Saturday evening.

The KHS basketball crew were swept in the regular season series by the Barbs thanks to a 50-38 setback on Friday night.

Kaneland came back and handed the visiting Whip-purs a small measure of revenge for last year’s playoff exit with a 50-35 win.

The Knights sit at 12-6 (4-4 Western Sun Conference) with seven games left in regular season play.

Against the rival Barbs, center Dave Dudzinski outscored counterpart Jordan Threloff 16-13, and Chaon Denlinger scored 13.

One pivotal aspect of the game that proved beneficial to DeKalb was from the foul line; while KHS went just 2-for-6, the Barbs ended up 17-for-26 from the line.

Kaneland led 11-10 after one, and fell behind 21-20 at the half before falling to a 16-9 third quarter run by DeKalb. The Barbs outscored the Knights 13-9 to secure the win.

Against the visiting Whip-purs, Dudzinski impressed with a game-high 19 points, followed by Steve Colombe’s 11.

The Knights were a spotless 9-for-9 from the charity stripe.

Kaneland led 11-8 after one before Hampshire knotted matters at 18 apiece at the halftime break. The Knights’ offense found openings in the third and led 31-28 at the buzzer before opening up a 19-7 run for the fourth.

The sophomore game had Hampshire beat KHS 46-43.

On tap for the varsity Knights: a road venture to WSC school Rochelle on Friday, Jan. 29.

KHS boys hoops going through three-game skid

Knights see setbacks against Batavia, BC and Geneva
by Mike Slodki
Kaneland High School basketball was a Ryley Bailey three-point shot away from sneaking by Batavia on Friday and potentially riding that positive wave into Burlington Central on Saturday evening.

Instead, Bailey’s running attempt went in and out of the rim and the Knights lost 42-40 to the visiting Bulldogs. Saturday had the Knights lose 65-51 to the host Rockets. The Knights also dropped a 61-51 skirmish at Geneva.

The three-game skid has Kaneland sitting at 9-5 with a 3-3 record in Western Sun Conference play.

Going into the fourth quarter vs. the Bulldogs, Kaneland was down 31-30 and gave up a basket to Ricky Clopton 34 seconds into the frame.

Bailey’s first basket of the contest followed by two Dave Dudzinski foul shots gave KHS a 34-33 leads with 5:21 remaining.

Two baskets by Batavia put the Bulldogs ahead 38-34 with 4:20 remaining, but a Steve Colombe basket on a feed by Dudzinski and a Donovan Williams shot tied it with 3:02 to go.

Bailey missed a free throw but Dudzinski’s putback with 1:53 remaining gave KHS a 40-38 lead. Two foul shots by Batavia tied the score 11 seconds later. After Kaneland worked on a possession, the ball was lost and Batavia’s Clopton was fouled driving to the hoop with 7.9 ticks left. After hitting his free throws, Bailey got the ball on a pass and lifted the unsuccessful trey attempt.

“I thought we could bring it up the sideline, try to go middle and get a layup,” KHS coach Brian Johnson said. “Didn’t work out that way. Ryley had a nice shot, it just didn’t go in, and that happens. Those shots will fall eventually.”

Kaneland’s biggest leads of the entire night was two points.

Dudzinski’s 20 points resembled the only Knight line in double figures.

The Knights were also 8-for-12 from the charity stripe.

Against BC, Chaon Denlinger led the way with 20 points, followed by Colombe’s 13 and Dudzinski’s 11.

Kaneland led 15-14 after one quarter, but fell behind 29-20 at halftime. The Knights closed the deficit to 43-35 after three but could get no closer.

Against Geneva, KHS saw Ryley Bailey score 15 and Dudzinski score 11.

The Knights fell behind 12-9 to the Vikings after one frame and 37-21 after the second quarter. Kaneland closed within 49-34 at the end of three, but it was too late to gain any more momentum.

In sophomore action, the Knights beat the Rockets 50-35 behind eight points from Ray Barry.

KHS tries to earn a conference win at Glenbard South on Friday, Jan. 15.

Photo: Knight hoopster Ryley Bailey gets two of his team-high 15 points the hard way in Kaneland’s 61-51 loss at Geneva on Tuesday. Photo by Ben Draper

Knight boys spreading cheer in Plano Christmas Classic

Dudzinski, Denlinger, Bailey key components in 3-0 start to tourney
by Mike Slodki

Note: The Kaneland boys basketball team won the Plano Christmas Classic, defeating Rockford Christian 47-39 Wednesday night, behind Dave Dudzinski’s 32 points. This was the fifth year the Knights have made it to the final of the Classic, and their third win.

PLANO—No.1 seed? No problem.

Kaneland Knights boys basketball (8-2, 3-1 Western Sun Conference) cut a path to the Plano Christmas Classic championship contest set for Wednesday against Rockford Christian, after defeating Putnam County, Sandwich and Genoa-Kingston so far in the tourney.

Kaneland took care of business within the cozy confines of Plano High School away from the snowy outdoor landscape, beating the Panthers of Putnam County on Saturday, 62-28.

It was prolific enough a morning that the 14 points each by Dave Dudzinski and Chaon Denlinger were enough to match the entire Panther output.

Kaneland also went 7-for-10 from the foul line, while PC went 10-for-14.

The Knights found the basket early with a 23-5 first quarter production, and kept Putnam County in check in the second to go up 35-11 at halftime.

The Knights once again outscored the Panthers by a 12-6 margin in the third to lead 47-17 after three.

The Knights took it to their second round opponent, Sandwich, in the form of a 47-27 win on Monday afternoon.

Dudzinski and Denlinger supplied 15 points apiece.

The first quarter got off to a nice start for the Knights as Denlinger supplied the first seven points.

“We like to run and Ryley gets the ball up the floor really good,” Denlinger said. “He finds a seam and gets me the ball.”

A Steve Colombe jumper and a Dudzinski putback of a Ryley Bailey blocked shot made it 12-3 with 2:05 left, and Bailey sunk a three-point basket with 31.6 seconds remaining.

That field goal gave KHS a 15-5 lead after one.

The tempo slowed considerably and Kaneland managed just two field goals from Dudzinski at 2:03 and Tyler Callaghan at 16.1 seconds for a 19-8 lead at the half.

Sandwich made six of its first eight shots in the third quarter to close within 30-21 before Callaghan made a shot with 1:39 left in the frame to go up 32-21. KHS had a cold streak which saw the team miss 12 out of 14 shots through the third and fourth quarters, but still led 32-23 at the end of the third.

The Indians put two foul shots in just eight seconds into the final quarter to close within 32-25, but two free throws and a basket by Denlinger, followed by a bucket by Bailey brought the lead to 38-26 with 3:01 to go. A reverse layup by Dudzinski put a nice flair on the afternoon and increased the lead to 45-27 with 1:35 remaining.

“When we decided to pull the ball out, extend their zone and get David the ball in the middle of the floor, he kicked it out a couple of times. That’s when we started to feel we could play our game,” KHS coach Brian Johnson said.

In the semifinal matchup, Kaneland got past the Cogs 58-47 on Tuesday.

A 21-point night by Bailey led the way and Dudzinski had 11.

Kaneland gets back into the regular swing of things on Friday, Jan. 8, 2010, vs. Batavia.

Photo: Chaon Denlinger goes skyward during Monday’s 47-27 second round win over the Sandwich Indians at the 47th Plano Christmas Classic Photo by Ben Draper

Brian Johnson era begins for boys basketball

by Mike Slodki
MAPLE PARK—West Aurora’s loss is Kaneand’s gain.

Brian Johnson, an assistant to Gordie Kerkbaum at West Aurora High School a year ago, makes his coaching debut next week in Sycamore.

With a first-year coaching gig on the way, and the challenge of trying to improve a team that went 13-13 (5-9 Western Sun Conferernce) on the way, the task can seem overwhelming.

“I still have a lot to learn,” Johnson said. “I’m learning how to handle the kids energy.”

But the former Judson College player has a built-in ace up his sleeve.

“It starts with Dave, who’s a very good player,” Johnson said.

College of the Holy Cross-signee Dudzinski returns for his senior campaign, having averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per game last year. The senior was also nominated for a McDonald’s All-American honor this week.

Johnson also likes what he has with other players going into the 2009-10 season.

“We have guys that are tough—that are looking to get to the next level,” Johnson said.

Returnees include senior guard Ryley Bailey, forward Steve Colombe, who has a flair for the perimeter game, forward Sean Paulick, guard Donovan Williams, forward Chaon Denlinger and forward Pat Fleming.

“Ryley has had a real nice couple of weeks. He’ll be a really strong player for us. Denlinger has gotten a lot better defensively,” Johnson said.

New to the varsity ranks are forward Danilo Bruno, guard Zach Ringhouse, guard Andrew O’Herron, forward Matt Spitzzeri, guard Matt Cowans, forward Taylor Andrews and forward Tyler Callaghan.

“The guys will get used to playing with each other and learning their role and we’re still trying to see where guys will fit in for us, but guys like Taylor, Tyler and Sean are unsung guys who will do the little things,” Johnson said.

The Knights hit the Strombom tournament in Sycamore for Thanksgiving week, beginning with Aurora Christian on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

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.

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.

KHS dropped by Hampshire in regional

by Mike Slodki
As much as the five-game winning streak a month ago represented good times, these last three games had the look of a hard-luck end.

Wednesday, March 4, saw Hampshire beat Kaneland for the second time this season, in a 47-38 result at the Burlington Central Regional in Class 3A. Wheaton Academy then went on to defeat the Whip-purs on Friday night in Rocket-land, 47-42 to capture the regional title.

Sharp-shooting Mike Pritchard provided boosts throughout the game for the Knights and kept them in the fight with a game-high 15 points. Christian Dillon had eight and Dave Dudzinski was kept to seven points in the season finale.

“Outside of Mike, we really had no offense,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said. “He kept us in the game all night long.”

Last season saw Kaneland lose in a 56-55 regional skirmish with BC to end its season.

The Knights end at 13-13 (5-9 Western Sun Conference), which is a three-game improvement from a year ago.

Throughout the game, it was evident that Hampshire was going to be effective in shutting the inside game of the Knights. Kaneland was then forced to try outside shooting, but clanked its first four tries. A feed from Dudzinski to Dillon with 1:28 remaining in the first gave KHS an 8-7 lead until Hampshire’s basket with 56 seconds in the frame sent Kaneland down 9-8.

Pritchard came to life in the second quarter and accounted for all the points by the Knights. A field goal 25 seconds into the quarter gave Kaneland a 10-9 lead. Another jumpshot with 5:47 to go tied the score at 12-12, and a fadeaway gave Kaneland a 14-12 lead with 4:20 to go before Hampshire closed the half on a 6-0 run for an 18-14 deficit. A Pritchard three-pointer with 6:27 to go closed within 20-17, but a Steve Colombe shot and a Dillon basket off the glass were the only other field goals of the quarter. The Knights trailed 28-22 with eight minutes remaining.

Dealing with several six-point leads throughout the contest, a Hampshire trey made it 31-22 just 11 seconds into the frame. Pritchard’s additional three closed it to 31-25 with 7:05 to go. Brody Root’s bucket with 6:18 remaining closed within 31-27, but Hampshire held the Knights at bay, even extending the lead to 46-36 on two free throws with 29 seconds to go.

After the conclusion of the game, Kaneland said goodbye to seniors Chris Ott, Joe Spitzzeri, Lubic, Ryan Blake, Pritchard, Root and Dillon, all of whom saw valuable time on the floor in 2008-09.

“All seven are class acts,” Hansen said. “They’re good kids, they’ve got good work ethic, and they’ve been the heart and soul of our team all year.”

Knight boys work over foes for 3 straight wins

by Mike Slodki
When the Knights basketball squad struggles, according to coach Dennis Hansen, they really struggle.

The same could be said when they stack wins, case in point this past week.

Kaneland saw its mark improve to 11-10 with a 4-7 record in Western Sun Conference play; this after taking care of host Yorkville on Friday in a 53-35 affair, and stumped Sycamore 68-50 at home on Saturday before hammering visiting Marengo on Tuesday 56-34.

“Our mental state was kind of bad before we started winning, but we started stepping up and executing a lot better,” Hansen said.

Against the Foxes, Dave Dudzinski had 15 points and Christian Dillon added nine. Kaneland’s victory came despite the Knights going just 13-for-27 from the free throw line.

Kaneland outscored YHS 12-7 in the first and maintained a 19-14 lead at the half. Kaneland ran roughshod on Yorkville in the third and led 32-17 at the end of the frame.

Dudzinski had a pivotal game vs. the Spartans as he poured in 28 points from the floor, while teammate Ryan Blake added 14.

KHS led 18-15 after the first quarter but trailed 29-26 at the half before turning it on the third quarter to go up 42-41. The Knights’ 26-9 fourth quarter sealed the deal.

Kaneland’s night against the visiting Indians started out with a flurry of baskets by Mike Pritchard and Dudzinski to go up 9-0 four minutes, 24 seconds into the contest.

The host offense found more paydirt with a basket from Dillon, two foul shots by Dudzinski and a three-pointer by Blake for a 16-2 lead with 1:48 remaining. The Knights led 16-6 after one quarter. Another trey by Blake increased the lead to 19-6 just 53 seconds into the next frame. Ryley Bailey’s three-point shot gave Kaneland its biggest lead of the half at 28-9 with 1:44 to go before the margin reached 30-12 at the end of the half.

Up 39-20 in the third quarter, Pritchard got a putback, Steve Colombe hit a three and Pritchard nailed the back-end of a trip to the foul line to go up 45-20 with 1:17 left in the third. KHS led 45-22 after the buzzer. The Knights went scoreless from 1:17 in the third until 3:52 in the fourth when Dudzinski hit a foul shot.

“I think we did what we had to do and played good, solid defense and just held onto it the whole game,” Hansen said on Tuesday.

While Dudzinski had a solid 15 points, he played just a little over half the game, allowing for needed rest, and passed the ball when needed after constant double-and-triple teaming.

“If they’re going to do that, I have confidence in these guys. We did what we had to do, spread the ball around and make shots,” Dudzinski said.

Eleven Knights reached the scoring column against the Indians.

The sophomores also defeated Marengo 44-37.

The Knights have their next challenge on Friday, Feb. 13, at Sycamore, and also travel to Aurora on Valentine’s Day to face Marmion Academy.

Boys hoops getting big performances

KHS follows loss at Batavia with wins over BC, Rochelle

by Mike Slodki

Knights boys basketball wants this to keep going.

Not the snow, but the conference and nonconference wins alike.

KHS came back on Tuesday night at Rochelle 64-59.

Kaneland also found momentum throughout a 65-51 win vs. Burlington Central on Saturday, after succumbing to Batavia on the road, 54-38.

The Knights saw their record improve to 8-6, with a 2-4 mark in the Western Sun Conference.

Christian Dillon came through at the home of the Hubs with 17 points, followed by Brody Root with 14, which included an 8-for-8 night from the line, and Dave Dudzinski had 13 on the night.

The Knights started off with a 17-13 lead after the first eight minutes, but fell behind 30-25 at halftime. Kaneland closed within 37-33 before the final fourth quarter rally.

Dave Dudzinski had 16 points against the Rockets, while Mike Pritchard had 11 and Ryan Blake had 10.

Matt McCurdy led BC with 13.

The Knights went with a slightly different lineup to start matters with Steve Colombe, Joe Spitzzeri, Chaon Denlinger, Brody Root and Dudzinski, and it yielded benefits.

“We had a lot of guys step up tonight,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said. “We made some shots early and made the easy baskets.”

Burlington Central enjoyed an early 12-8 lead before Curtis Lubic nailed a shot with 51.7 seconds to go, cutting the lead to two.

The final sequence of the first frame had Lubic snare a steal and pull up for a successful three-pointer at the buzzer to go up 13-12 after one.

During a second quarter run, Dudzinski had a steal and six points which helped the Knights go up 26-19 with 4:40 to play in the half.

A shot by Christian DIllon and three consecutive buckets by Ryan Blake keyed a 9-0 run and a 35-19 lead with 2:47 to go before the Knights went into the locker room up 37-21.

The Knights increased their lead to 45-23 in the third quarter on a Denlinger lay-in with 2:06 remaining. Kaneland led 45-27 at the end of the third. The fourth quarter had Kaneland hitting seven out of eight shots down the stretch to cinch the win.

“We matched up well with Burlington Central,” Christian Dillon (6 points) said. “That second quarter was great and we really spread it out. Everyone got into the game.”

Against the formidable Bulldogs, Dudzinski had 19 points to lead Kaneland in a losing effort.

Batavia had an 11-8 lead after one and 24-22 after two. Kaneland fell victim to a third quarter that went 15-6 in Batavia’s favor before a 15-10 fourth quarter destroyed the Knights’ chances.

Lower class action had the sophomore boys lost a triple overtime game to Burlington Central on Saturday,79-73,falling to 2-10. Taylor Andrews led the Knights with 18 points, while Andrew O’Herron had 13.

On Friday night, Kaneland lost 50-23 to Batavia.

Rochelle handled the sophomores on Tuesday night, 38-31

Kaneland hopes to extend its winning ways on the varsity slate with a trip to Glenbard South on Friday, Jan. 16.

Knights boys fall to Bogan in 12-team E. C. Nichols debut

Dudzinski scores 22 in opening contest of Marengo tournament

by Mike Slodki

            For awhile, the Kaneland boys basketball team played like it hadn’t seen the court in 17 days.

            Monday’s opener at the E.C. Nichols Tournament at Marengo High School had Kaneland struggling to do what it needed for any kind of edge against Chicago’s Bogan High School.

            By the time the Knights did find their footing, it was too late and KHS suffered a 55-44 loss to drop to 2-4 (0-2 Western Sun Conference).

            Last year’s opening game at the E.C. Nichols gathering saw Kaneland stomp Harvard 63-36 behind Nick Wagner’s 23 points on its way to a 2-2 fourth-place finish.

            For the Knights, Dave Dudzinski had a game-high 22 points, followed by Christian Dillon with seven. Kaneland also had a rare game without a three-pointer.

            “It took us a little while to get going and find our shots,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said. “Bottom line is we needed to shoot the ball better.”

            Bogan’s ball-movement and up-tempo offense had Kaneland reeling as the Knights also struggled to penetrate the Bengal defense. Down 12-6, KHS found a Dudzinski foul shot and a putback to close to within 12-9 with 30.6 second left in the first quarter before Bogan’s Myles Horton hit a buzzer-beater to go up 14-9 after one.

            Kaneland’s only field goal in the second quarter was a Steve Colombe jumper with 1:56 to go in the half to close within 23-17 before Bogan scored the final two baskets to go up 27-17 at halftime.

            Kaneland found itself down by 16 points at 37-21 with 2:24 to go, but Dudzinski’s shot and a buzzer-beater by Ryley Bailey closed to within 37-25 and gave the Knights some life.

            Bogan secured the lead by smart ball-control and hitting 9-of-10 foul shots to hold of the Knights. Kaneland managed to cut it to 39-29 on Dudzinski’s free throws with 6:52 to go, but six missed three-point attempts hindered the Kaneland comeback effort.

            Despite the loss, Kaneland’s Dudzinski had one of his stronger games of the young season.

            “He was calling for the ball more and getting inside to the basket and getting to the line and that’s what we like to see,” Hansen said.

            It was also nice for the team to get back on the court after weather cancellations and the loss of two classmates and friends.

            “It still weighs on our minds and it was nice to get back to what we need to do and that’s fight hard and try every night,” Hansen said.

            The boys were set to face Francis Parker High School from Chicago on Tuesday evening, and play two games on Saturday, Dec. 27. The first game would be against either North Boone, Alden-Hebron or Westminster Christian of Elgin, with the final being against either Hubbard, Sycamore or Marengo.

            Other teams competing in the tourney are Harvard, Winnebago and Hampshire.

            Following that is the much-anticipated game against Geneva at the United Center in Chicago with an 8:45 a.m. tip-off on New Year’s Eve.

Knight boys hoops split first four

by Mike Slodki

            No turkey coma apparent for the Kaneland basketball team, judging by an above-average third place showing at the annual Strombom Tournament at Sycamore High School.

            The Thanksgiving tradition saw Kaneland defeat Machesney Park’s Harlem High School on Tuesday, Nov. 25, 84-69, but drop a 60-49 decision to tourney champ Dundee-Crown on Friday, before trouncing host Sycamore on Saturday evening 84-67.

            The Knights began Western Sun Conference action on Tuesday night, but fell to visiting Glenbard South 56-47.

            The Knight boys have a 2-2 (0-1 WSC) mark as they start out the latest campaign.

            Against the rival Spartans, Dave Dudzinski shored up the middle with  a team-high 20 points, while sharp-shooting Ryan Blake had 17 points. Christian Dillon had 16 and Ryley Bailey had 10 of his own.

            The effort was helped by Kaneland’s 12-for-13 performance at the line.

            Kaneland led the Spartans after the end of eight minutes 19-13, and maintain a 41-34 lead at halftime. The Knights had their most successful quarter offensively and led 67-56 after three.

            Previously, the Chargers of Dundee-Crown were primed and ready for the Knights even in a tight affair.

            D-C took an 18-15 lead after one and 35-28 lead at halftime. However, Kaneland used a 17-10 third quarter to tie the game at 44, but the Chargers’ 15-4 run encompassing the fourth quarter.

Dudzinski and Bailey had 12 points each to lead the team.

            The season opener saw Brody Root surprise the Huskies with 26 points, a game-high. Christian Dillon had 16 and Dudzinski added 12.

            “Brody had a very good offseason and it came to light tonight,” KHS coach Dennis Hansen said. “He made some pull-up jumpers and slashed to the basket.”

            Leading the Huskies 12-11, Harlem hit one free throw with 53.2 seconds left but Dudzinski’s successful shot with just under three ticks left gave the Knights a 14-12 lead after one.

            With Harlem clinging close to Kaneland 22-21, Kaneland extended its lead after a Blake three, a basket by Root and two foul shots by Root to go up 31-23.

            Dudzinski later connected on a tip-in to go up 38-31 with just under nine seconds to go before Harlem hit a three at the buzzer.

            The Knights caught on fire in the third quarter, thanks to a Root basket, a Dillon basket and a three by Steve Colombe in the baseline for a 52-36 lead with 2:24 remaining.

            Dudzinski’s two free throws with just over four ticks left gave Kaneland a 58-42 lead before a three-point play at the buzzer by Harlem.

            Kaneland’s 15-for-17 shooting performance from the foul line secured things, and two Bailey foul shots with 2:52 to go gave Kaneland its biggest lead at 75-51.

            Vs. The Raiders, Dudzinski had a game-high 20 points and Blake had 11 points on the strength of three treys.

            Glenbard South’s Jordan Harks has 18 points.

            The Raiders inched out to a 10-9 lead after one but KHS creeped ahead 25-22 at halftime. The score was deadlocked at 38-38 after three before the Raiders blazed an 18-9 trail to end the game in the fourth.

            This Friday, Dec. 5, the Knights travel to DeKalb for Western Sun Conference play.

KHS boys basketball ready to deal with season’s challenges

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Knights return 10 in effort to bounce back from 10-17 season

by Mike Slodki

            Beginning at the Strombom Tournament at Sycamore High School on Tuesday, Nov. 25, the first sight for opponents of Kaneland boys basketball will be the junior in the middle, Dave Dudzinski.

            But opponents will need to be on the lookout for the tenacity and shooting touch that led to victories against schools like Yorkville in overtime, a 29-point comeback at Geneva and a last-second regional win vs. Sandwich.

            With 10 returnees supplanting the loss of personnel like Nick Wagner and Kevin Green, Kaneland could be prime for significant improvement from last year’s 10-17 record (6-8 Western Sun Conference).

            Dudzinski averaged 12 points and seven rebounds a game as a center threat, and spent part of the summer in Orlando, Fla. as part of an AAU Nationals exhibition.

            “His sophomore year was good, and we expect even bigger things this year. We’re hoping we get a big year out of him,” third-year coach Dennis Hansen said on Tuesday.

            Seniors on the squad include Chris Ott at guard and guard Joe Spitzerri making his comeback from X-linked lymphoproliferative disease, an immune disorder. Other seniors include guard Curtis Lubic, guard Ryan Blake, forward Mike Pritchard, guard Brody Root and forward Christian Dillon.

            Juniors are guard Ryley Bailey, guard Donovan Williams, forward Steve Colombe, forward Sean Paulick, new addition junior Pat Fleming and Dudzinski.

            The lone sophomore on the squad is Chaon Denlinger.

            With rosters set a little over a week ago, Kaneland boys basketball is working on its game in the trenches.

            “So far, it’s been a lot of conditioning and defensive stuff. They’re familiar with what we do,” said Hansen, who has John Pavlak as assistant coach. “Biggest thing with this group is being consistent, which was a problem last year.”

            The players can put what they’ve learned and rehashed starting against Harlem High School of Machesney Park at the Thanksgiving tradition, the Strombom Tournament. Hansen looks for the experience to be useful.

            “I think so, it’s loaded with talented teams every year. It’ll have good solid ballclubs, and it’ll serve as a measuring stick,” Hansen said.

            Any early-season test to prove Kaneland’s mettle could send the Knights on their way to Western Sun success.

            “It seems to be wide open; Glenbard South and Batavia seem to have the advantage right now. Rochelle is a solid club. It’s wide open, and we hope to be there at the top,” Hansen said.

            The first slated conference battle is on Tuesday, Dec. 2, vs. Glenbard South, with the final regular season contest vs. Geneva on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009.