Baseball: Hallahan’s gem leads Sycamore to series win over Kaneland

Sycamore pitcher Teague Hallahan said there’s nothing better than when his defense is playing strong behind him.

The Spartans committed just one error on Thursday after two defensively shaky games against Kaneland, topping the Knights 6-0 and winning the key Interstate 8 series.

“My defense had my back behind me,” Hallahan said. “I thought we played amazing. I thought our bats were on point. I thought our defense was on point. That’s what you’ve got to do to win a ballgame. ... I know if I hit the strike zone and they got my back, there’s nothing that can stop us.”

Both teams entered the series undefeated in conference play, then Kaneland won Game 1 7-0 in Sycamore. In Game 2 in Maple Park on Wednesday, the Spartans led 10-2 going into the bottom of the fifth but allowed the Knights to score eight times to tie it up, but scored in the sixth for the 12-10 win.

On Thursday, Hallahan made sure to keep the Kaneland bats at bay. The Knights (12-6 overall, 7-2 Interstate 8) managed just one hit in Hallahan’s five innings, while he struck out seven and walked four.

Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said he thought his team had a good approach at the plate but just ran into a pitcher who brought his A game.

“The last two games weren’t indicative of how we’ve been playing ball,” Aversa said. “After Monday we thought going into Wednesday that would be a good game for us, and we kind of gave it away and battled back. And then Teague pitched great. You’ve got to tip your hat to him. They made plays and Teague kept us at bay. ... That’s why you lose a series, you don’t play the way you should.”

Hallahan also brought home the first run of the game, when his chopper to second scored Will Klumpp. Sycamore (16-1, 8-1) tacked on two more in the third when Davis Collie and Klumpp drew back-to-back bases-loaded walks from Kaneland starter Alex Schiefer for a 3-0 lead.

After Hallahan reached 88 pitchers through five innings, he was pulled for Tyler Townsend. Kaneland started the seventh by loading the bases on a single by Tom Thill, Jack Wituk reached on an error by Hallahan at second, then Preston Popovich singled.

But Townsend struck out the next two batters and Hallahan made up for the error with a big defensive play. Parker Violett hit a hard chopper to Collie at first and the ball ricocheted off him toward the second-base gap. Hallahan ran over, grabbed the slowly moving baseball and tossed out Violett by a step to end the game.

“It was a really emotional win for us to come back after getting shut out on Monday in Game 1 and holding on for dear life in Game 2,” Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. “They came out and took it to us in Game 1, and it had been a few years since somebody really came out and took it to us like they did in Game 1 with a 7-0 win. We were kind of on our heels a little bit after that first game.”

Kaneland finished with three hits in the game while Sycamore had five, including two each for Collin Severson and Matthew Rosado. Severson scored twice and Rosado had a pair of RBIs.

Cavanaugh said it was great to see Hallahan put all his talent together for an outstanding performance on the hill. He also said he was glad that the Spartans improved defensively after nine total errors in the first two games of the series.

A big part of that was moving Severson to shortstop. The lefty has been playing lockdown defense in center field but returned to shortstop Thursday, which is where he played all of last season.

“It’s great knowing you have a guy like Collin Severson who can be the best player of the field no matter where you put him,” Cavanaugh said. “He’s the best player on the field most of the time when he’s in the batter’s box. He’s the best player on the field in center field, and he’s the best player on the field at shortstop.”

The Spartans face rival DeKalb at NIU at 10 a.m. Saturday, then kick off an I-8 series Monday against Morris, which is also 8-1 in conference. Kaneland’s prom is Saturday, so the Knights are scheduled for a 6 p.m. game Friday in Schaumburg at Trout Park against Yorkville Christian.

“That Game 1 was great, we thought we were on Cloud 9,” Aversa said. “But giving Game 2 away, we could have won that one if we made a couple plays. But we’ve got to make plays. That’s baseball. If you don’t you’re going to lose games. That’s what it’s been the last two days.”

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