High school baseball took a back seat to community support for cancer Monday night at Fifth Third Ballpark in Geneva.
For the record, Batavia (24-3-1) stretched its winning streak to 15 with a thorough 10-1 victory over Kaneland (14-14) as the nonconference foes celebrated a dual Senior Night.
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However, baseball served as just a small portion of the festivities on this night.
The real highlight was the "Strike Out Cancer" fundraising event that benefited 3 local Kaneland families currently battling the disease, including Kaneland softball coach Brian Willis (colon cancer), Phil Kassinger (lung cancer), the father of Knights senior pitcher Kevin Kassinger, and Harter Middle School 7th-grader Drew Hahn, the son of Geneva baseball coach Matt Hahn.
Drew, 12, was diagnosed with anaplastic large-cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma in March.
"People keep asking me and it's hard to find words sometimes to describe the outpouring (of support)," said Matt Hahn. "Tonight is just a microcosm of the whole thing.
"Two classy baseball teams," added Hahn. "I respect both coaches the way they do things and it's at a different level now. It's not just about baseball."
Hahn was impressed with the turnout.
"You have a sea of red (third-base side) and a sea of black (first-base side) and then you see (Geneva) blue sprinkled in here, too," said Hahn. "The whole thing is great."
Emotions were difficult to keep check as Phil Kassinger, Drew Hahn and Willis each threw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game.
"It's a great thing what we're doing and hopefully the boys realize that this is much more than baseball tonight," said Kaneland coach Brian Aversa. "We're very appreciative and humbled by the community support.
"Batavia is a class-act program. Every year they help us out with this. I couldn't be prouder to be involved in something like this."
Batavia coach Matt Holm fought back emotions following the contest.
"It was a tremendous atmosphere," he said. "Certainly the benefit -- and for the seniors to be able to celebrate and have fun is a real important thing. It was a special night."
As for the game itself, Kaneland jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Sean Dunphy's RBI single in the second inning.
Batavia answered with a pair of third-inning runs, highlighted by an RBI triple from senior Jeremy Schoessling (3-for-4, 3 RBI), before taking command with a 6-run fourth.
Schoessling added an RBI double in the fourth, while teammate Laren Eustace had a run-producing triple, Jacob Piechota smacked a 2-run double and seniors Colby Green and Matt Puttin each added RBI singles.
"Thirteen hits -- we only left 5 on (base)," said Holm. "Everything seemed to work tonight."
Meanwhile, senior pitchers Ryan Olson, Tucker Knox, Austin VanKempen, Nick Bleidorn and Alec Berry combined to limit the Knights to 2 base hits and 7 base-runners total.
"Our senior pitching from top to bottom -- we kept throwing guys out there," said Holm. "It was great to see each one of those guys come in, have fun and do their jobs."
One of the Knights' highlights was provided by Kevin Kassinger, who tossed a scoreless seventh.
"I played as best as I could for my father," said Kassinger. "Hopefully we raised a lot of money. It's a big deal -- it's helping out not only my family but also three families.
"Despite the loss, it was still a good night."
Hahn felt the night was therapeutic for his son.
"Drew has had a rough couple of days the last week or so," said Matt Hahn. "Cyndi (Matt's wife) took him down to Rush (University Medical Center) today to get him pumped with some fluids.
"But when he got here and saw his friends -- he hasn't been to school a whole lot since the end of March -- you could see him just be a kid again and put the worries aside for a night. It puts an extra exclamation point on tonight."