Congratulations to the Kaneland Knights, 2011 Class 3A state baseball champions.
That has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?
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Here's one last look back at a team that caught fire in the last month of the season, going from 13-10 on May 10 to a 26-10 final record with 13 straight wins to close the season.
Biggest scare: It turned out to be Marian Central in the sectional semifinals at Rochelle.
The Knights trailed 3-1 in the seventh inning and Marian brought in its closer Steve Zubrzycki, who at that point was 6 for 6 in save chances.
Make it 6 for 7.
Kaneland watched leadoff hitter Kyle Davidson open the inning with an out. But the game changed suddenly when Corey Landers drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch, Joe Camiliere doubled to deep right and Bobby Thorson launched a 3-run home run to put Kaneland ahead to stay.
Most impressive statistic: I'll vote for the defense Kaneland played in the postseason, which started with a perfect game win over IMSA and ended in perfect fashion at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
The Knights made 5 errors in the 7 games, none of them costly, while their opponents had 18. Kaneland turned 4 double plays at state and were tested often against two good hitting teams.
"We've been looking at this game as 80 percent defense, 20 percent offense," Knights second baseman Brian Dixon said. "We play our game, we play defense and the hits will come. And they did."
The difference in defense was even more pronounced in the supersectional and two state games when Kaneland made 2 errors and its opponents 11.
"I can't remember the last time we've made costly errors," first baseman Sam Komel said. "We've been solid defensively for awhile now."
Second most impressive statistic: The 24 hits in two state games -- especially considering the caliber of pitching the Knights faced.
First Kaneland attacked Waterloo ace A.J. Crutchfield, who entered the state tournament with a 9-1 record and 1.11 ERA. The Knights knocked him out in the fourth inning.
Then Oak Forest threw Kyle Linares. He had been 5-0 with a 1.48 ERA during the year -- but the Knights tagged him for 7 runs in his 4 1/3 innings.
Dixon, the Knights' No. 8 hitter, led the charge with a 3-for-4 day and 4 RBI in the state championship game.
"I'm happiest for Brian Dixon," Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said. "Great game, great way to end his senior year. He's wanted to contribute so much. He's been such a great defensive player. And finally he busted open the last game of the year. He did a wonderful job getting all those runs in for us. Great glove, today he just blew up."
Aversa had praise for the way Dixon and No. 7 hitter Jake Razo combined to go 8-for-15 at state.
"They are scrappy kids," Aversa said. "They will scratch and claw and give you everything that they have. They are always hustling and good things happen to people who hustle."
Razo along with lefty Drew Peters, the winner of the state championship game along with three other postseason wins, catcher Tyler Heinle and his brother Trevor Heinle at shortstop figure to be the leaders of Kaneland's 2012 team.
Scheduling to win: The Knights started the year 2-4. Much more important than the record were the teams Kaneland played: Plainfield North, New Trier, Warren and Cary-Grove, among others.
"This winter, I sat down at my computer and said I'm going to put the toughest schedule together I possibly can," Aversa said. "I told guys we'll take some lumps. I told them it would prepare us for the end of the season and we can do some damage then. It turned out to be pretty prefect."
MVP: The answer is Thorson, who improved to 7-3 by winning the state semifinal game. His final ERA wound up at 0.83...and we haven't even talked about his impact at the plate with 8 home runs, 51 RBI and a .417 batting average.
But I'll take the easy way out and split it between Kaneland's senior class.
Thorson, shortstop/pitcher Davidson, left fielder Landers, center fielder Joe Camiliere, first baseman Komel, third baseman Drew French and Dixon at second base all took turns making plays in the team's seven postseason wins.
The Knights wouldn't have won a state title without each player stepping up at one time or another.
"Our senior class is a very special class," Aversa said. "We can't replace those guys. We'll have to find guys to step up next year and carry on this Kaneland tradition."
That's quite a tradition Kaneland is building.