Baseball: Burlington Central tops Sycamore in 8
The Burlington Central baseball players flashed broad smiles after they rallied to win Wednesday's playoff opener against Sycamore 5-4 in eight innings in Genoa.
There were concerned looks on those same faces entering the bottom of the sixth inning, at which point the No. 2 subsectional seed trailed No. 7 Sycamore (13-15) by 3 runs.
The Rockets cut it close, but they later said losing wasn't an option.
"I was getting a little bit nervous," winning pitcher Bradley Dinges said, "but I knew we'd come through eventually,"
Burlington Central (22-9) rallied in the sixth inning for 3 runs on 3 hits to tie the Class 3A Genoa-Kingston semifinal 4-4.
The Rockets won it in the eighth when junior Braden Seyller laced a line drive to the right-center field gap, scoring Andrew Griffin from second base for a playoff walk-off.
"Anything can happen at anytime," Seyller said of remaining positive prior to the comeback. "We started hitting the ball, getting walks, having good at-bats."
"The at-bats we took from the fifth inning on were really good," Central coach Kyle Nelson said. "Top to bottom we didn't give anything away and we took good at-bats."
Seyller's first varsity walk-off hit advances Central to the regional title game on Saturday at 11 a.m. The Rockets will face the winner of Thursday's semifinal between No. 3 Freeport and No. 5 Genoa-Kingston.
Sycamore took advantage of Central mistakes to build a 2-0 lead. The Spartans scored a third-inning run when the Rockets couldn't turn a two-out double play. They added a fourth-inning run when Central starting pitcher Kyle Hresil's consecutive wild pitches allowed a runner on second base to score.
Ryan Knowlton halved the deficit in the bottom of the fourth by crushing a solo home run 40 feet beyond the 365 sign in left-center field.
The Spartans responded with a blast of their own against Central reliever Tyler Perez, who took over with two outs in the fourth inning.
"We had a chance to come out on top," Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. "I think we gave them everything we had and we gave them everything they could handle."
Knowlton's home run was all the scoring the Rockets managed until the sixth. They loaded the bases with a Knowlton walk and singles by Caden Scott and Griffin. Nick Matijevic's RBI fielder's choice made it 4-2, and Seyller drew a walk to force in another run.
Central senior Jake Mellinger, batting ninth, delivered a run-scoring sacrifice fly to center field to knot the score at 4-4.
Sycamore never tallied against Dinges (3-3) after scoring in the previous three innings. The senior gave his team a chance to win by holding the Spartans to 2 hits without a walk in 3 innings. He struck out four.
"I was just trying to throw strikes and I was able to do that," Dinges said.
"Bradley is just coming back off injury and he did a great job," Nelson said. "He came in and threw strikes. His stuff plays well. It's just been a matter of if he commands it and he did today."
Griffin and Knowlton each finished 2-for-3 and drove in a run, and Seyller went 1-for-2 with 2 RBI.