One reason the high school baseball postseason can be so unpredictable is that even a heavy favorite can find itself in a tough game early in the tournament going up against the opponent's No. 1 pitcher.
For Kaneland Friday, that meant getting Sandwich ace Jake Roehn, a hard-throwing righty who will be pitching Division I baseball at Ohio University next year.
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The Knights, though, were up to the challenge. They scored five runs in the second inning on a combination of a few hard hit balls, a little small ball and some shaky Sandwich defense, then watched Curtis Thorson do the rest.
Thorson tossed a 5-hit shutout, pitching Kaneland to a 6-0 win and a spot in the Class 3A Kaneland regional championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday against No. 1 seed St. Francis.
"I was trying to go deep," Thorson said. "I know he (Roehn) has the stuff to go past seven innings so I wanted to pace myself to go farther than seven as well.
"It (a regional title) would make up for not winning conference. We had potential at the beginning of the year but couldn't get the hits going. I can't wait for tomorrow."
Kaneland (13-17) won a postseason game for the first time in three tries on its home field. Roehn (4-2) was impressive, striking out 10 and walking none, but the Knights got all the offense they needed in the second inning.
John Hopkins, Tyler Carlson and Thorson all singled. Zack Martinelli also reached on one of 3 Sandwich errors.
That flipped the lineup to the top of the order, and Tyler Bellock and Dan Miller both drove in runs without getting the ball out of the infield.
"It basically came down to one bad inning," Sandwich coach Jason VanPelt said. "Other than that we were right there. A lot of crazy things happened. They were executing the bunt game well. We were slipping around. They were able to take advantage of that. They got a few hits on Jake but other than that they took advantage of their opportunities."
One of the few hits on Roehn came from the batter following Miller -- Matt Limbrunner -- who crushed an 0-2 pitch to deep right-center for an RBI triple to score Bellock and make it 5-0.
Kaneland plated its only other run in the fifth on singles from Joe Komel, Josh Cohrs and Carlson, the later of the infield variety that scored the run.
"The bats came alive for an inning or two and that's all we needed," Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said. "After the first inning our guys came back and talked to each other about what they were seeing and what he was tipping. Guys made the adjustments they needed to. They were smacking the ball, waiting for their pitch no matter where in the count."
Sandwich (13-13) never got much going against Thorson until back-to-back singles to open the seventh. With freshman Anthony Holubecki warming in the bullpen, Thorson retired the next three hitters to end the game.
Thorson only struck out two but never walked a batter in raising his record to 5-4 with his second shutout of the season. That pinpoint control meant Thorson threw his complete game on just 82 pitches.
"He's been making guys look silly all year," Aversa said. "He pitched an excellent game and the defense played well behind him."
Hopkins will pitch for Kaneland on Saturday.
"If we can hang with Roehn we are confident about tomorrow," Aversa said. "Our kids are excited. They (St. Francis) are a good squad, solid all around. Our guys will show up and be ready."