Kaneland senior Quinn Buschbacher picked a most opportune time to break out of a slump.
Trailing host DeKalb 1-0 in the second inning of Monday's Northern Illinois Big 12 East series opener, the Knights' leadoff hitter stepped up to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded against Barbs starter Zack Price.
Buschbacher promptly launched an 0-1 fastball through a stiff crosswind over the 360-foot sign in center field for a grand slam, giving the Knights the lead for good.
Kaneland starter John Hopkins kept the Barbs off balance from start to finish. He allowed 5 hits and walked just one in an efficient 6-2 victory as the Knights shook off Saturday's tough 6-5 loss to Marian Central.
"That was a great way to break out of a slump. It made me happy," chuckled Buschbacher, who also made a fine sliding catch on Trenton Sopko's liner to left to open the fourth inning.
"I was hitting fourth, then they dropped me down to fifth and now they're bringing me back up to first, so I'm just trying to find out where I work out best in the order."
DeKalb (8-5-1, 2-2) broke out to the early lead when shortstop Trever Heinle misjudged Sopko's high, drifting 2-out popup, allowing Kevin Sullivan to score from second.
Price retired two of the first three hitters in the Kaneland second when Kyle Pollastrini dropped a soft single into right field, advancing Hopkins to third.
DeKalb had a chance to get out of the inning when Pollastrini broke for second with Price in the stretch position, but Price stepped off too late to make a play.
Number nine hitter Joey Pollastrini coaxed a walk to load the bases, setting the stage for Buschbacher's blast.
"That's frustrating because you walk their nine hitter right into their leadoff guy. We also didn't run the play right before that," said DeKalb manager Jake Howells. "Those are mistakes and mistakes lead to big innings. That's exactly what happened."
"That grand slam was a nice game-changer, and when John gets the lead he's tough to beat," said Kaneland manager Brian Aversa.
The Knights (10-6, 4-0) added a pair of unearned insurance runs in the fifth. Jacob Razo legged out an infield single and moved to second on Price's errant pickoff attempt.
Tom Fox hit a routine grounder to short, but the throw skipped past the first baseman, allowing Razo to score. Ray Barry followed with a clutch two-out RBI single.
Meanwhile, Hopkins retired 11 of 12 DeKalb batters until Tyler Gosnall's solid single with one out in the fifth. Gosnall scored when Sullivan blooped a two-out hit in front of a hesitating Razo in right.
"I just kept trying to pound the strike zone," Hopkins said, as he improved to 3-2. "I was mixing up my fastball outside, two-seamer inside and sometimes curveball."
"He utilized both sides of the plate, which is important," Howells said. "You can see a lot of the contact that we made was soft. We weren't able to string a lot of good at-bats together in a row."
Brian Sisler doubled to open the DeKalb sixth, but Hopkins calmly escaped the scoring threat, aided by an outstanding play from Trever Heinle on Jeremy Karasewski's sharp grounder in the hole.
Despite the miscue on the early popup, Heinle handled all five chances on the ground flawlessly.
"Throwing across the field in this wind -- Trever made it look easy, but it's not, it's not at all," Aversa said.
The two teams will battle again today in Maple Park, with the series finale Thursday back in DeKalb.
"It was big for us to get out in front, but DeKalb lost the first one to Sycamore and then beat them the next two games," Aversa said. "We have to come with the mindset where we have to take another one from them."