Kaneland's defense of its IHSA Class 3A baseball title didn't go exactly as planned.
The top-seeded Knights squandered golden scoring opportunities throughout Wednesday's home regional semifinal against DeKalb and committed costly mistakes in other phases of the game.
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The fourth-seeded Barbs capitalized with five two-out RBI hits in the contest and collected a stunning 9-3 victory over their Northern Illinois Big 12 East rivals.
"We played some uncharacteristic baseball both on the fielding aspect and some of the things I decided to do, and it came back to haunt us," said Kaneland manager Brian Aversa, as his squad committed 3 errors and stranded 11.
Kaneland (24-11) squeaked out a 2-1 series victory over DeKalb in conference play, but the Barbs (18-15-1) gained confidence with a 2-run first off starter John Hopkins (7-3).
"It's difficult playing from behind against Kaneland, so scoring those two runs in the first with two outs gave us some wiggle room," said DeKalb manager Jake Howells.
The Knights answered in the bottom of the frame as Tom Fox singled to drive in Ray Barry and had the bases loaded when Quinn Buschbacher grounded into an inning-ending 5-2-3 double play.
Kaneland loaded the bases again in the second thanks to a pair of walks and a hit batter from DeKalb starter Jeremy Karazewski, but Tyler Heinle popped up a suicide squeeze bunt to Karazewski, who doubled off the runner at third.
"If we had taken advantage of those two bases loaded situations, it would have been a completely different game, but we didn't execute," Aversa said.
The Knights tied the score in the third as Fox singled in Jacob Razo. Barry doubled with one out in the fourth and Kaneland grabbed a 3-2 lead on Tyler Heinle's sharp RBI single up the middle.
Hopkins settled down to retire 11 of 12 batters before DeKalb put two on with two out in the fifth. Brian Sisler delivered a game-tying single to left and the Barbs plated the lead run when an errant throw home caromed wildly off the backstop. Sisler scored on a wild pitch for a 5-3 lead.
After the Knights failed to cover second on a potential double play comebacker to reliever Drew Peters in the sixth, Sisler made them pay with a crushing 3-run, 2-out double, followed by Trenton Sopko's RBI triple.
"I haven't come through too often in that situation this year, but today it turned out positively," Sisler said. "I'm smiling from ear to ear. Kaneland's a great team."
"DeKalb hit the ball well. I didn't think they would be able to hit our pitching like that," Aversa said.
Tyler Gosnell tossed 3-2/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the win for the Barbs, who advanced to Saturday's championship game against the winner of today's semifinal between No. 2 seed Marmion and No. 3 seed St. Francis.
"DeKalb got the momentum and just outplayed us," Tyler Heinle said.