Baseball: DuKane's rivalry week comes too early
Call me a traditionalist but I was a bit disappointed when noticing the timing of "Rivalry Week" in the DuKane Conference for baseball this season.
Rather than having the annual 3-game series with Batavia vs. Geneva and St. Charles East vs. St. Charles North during the final week of the regular season (in the former Upstate Eight River), the games were moved up to the last weekend in April.
"It's a little early but it's the new conference," said Saints coach Len Asquini.
With the natural rivals firmly in place (Wheaton North vs. WW South and Glenbard North vs. Lake Park as well), I say return those games to their rightful place in mid-May next season.
"I think that's something we'll probably talk about at some point in time," said Asquini.
Geneva's growing pains: Baseball can be a crazy game.
One day, your team can't push a base runner past second base yet alone score a run.
The next day, your team manages to score runs in bunches while threatening for additional runs every inning.
The ball that is fielded as a routine grounder at shortstop one inning takes a wicked hop the next at-bat.
Geneva coach Brad Wendell experienced his share of unusual occurrences during last week's 3-game sweep at the hands of DuKane Conference foe St. Charles East.
After the Vikings (8-12-1, 2-8) let a 7-2 fifth-inning lead slip away in their series-opening, 8-7 loss to the Saints, they returned to St. Charles 3 days later and dropped a pair of games -- a 6-0 decision in the conclusion of a lightning-shortened contest and a 7-6 setback in the series finale last Tuesday.
"We've had a lot of close things happen this past week that just didn't go our way," said Wendell, "and then we didn't help ourselves at all in a lot of situations. You add those two things up and the series looks really bad but I think we played some good baseball in between.
"We outhit them by 10 hits (16-6) the first day and we outhit them (9-7 in the third game). We're learning in a lot of places. Now, we've got four tough series coming up."
Geneva opened its 3-game set with an 11-1, 5-inning loss at Batavia last Friday.
Running wild: St. Charles East junior second baseman Clay Conn proved to be quite a disruptive force on the base paths during the Saints' recent sweep of Geneva.
The Saints' leadoff hitter stole 6 bases in 3 games against the Vikings while solidifying his role as a pest throughout the series.
"He's a table setter for us," Saints coach Len Asquini said of the switch-hitting Conn, whose twin brother, Cole, bats clean-up and alternates at catcher and first base.
"When he gets on the bases, we have a chance to move him a little bit. Even when he's on second (base), they've got to watch him or he'll steal third. It's really great to a have a kid like that around."
Conn made a believer out of Geneva's Wendell last week.
"We outhit them in two of our three games but they scored runs by running bases really well and we were not taking care of that," said Wendell. "We've got to find a way to minimize that and it starts on the mound."
Romasanta sparking South Elgin: While watching last week's opener of a crucial 3-game Upstate Eight Conference series between South Elgin and West Aurora, one thing really stood out.
I admittedly did a double take when I saw South Elgin senior Logan Romasanta take his catching spot in the bottom of the first inning.
Even with his catcher's gear strapped on, Romasanta appeared much lighter and quicker behind the plate.
"In the off-season, I lost like 80 pounds," said Romasanta, who is still an imposing figure at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds. "I worked out consistently and changed my diet.
"I took a lot of swings (in the cages) and worked on a lot of side-to-side blocking techniques."
With his team trailing 2-0 in the series opener after 3 innings, Romasanta delivered a 2-run, 2-out game-tying single to right field in the top of the fourth.
The Storm returned home the following day to win the suspended game, 6-3.
When asked about his weight loss, Romasanta was honest.
"Yeah, I needed it," he admitted. "I'm much more athletic behind the plate and I haven't lost any power."
His new frame has helped create another option for him -- as a starting pitcher.
The hard-throwing right-hander tossed a 4-hitter with 8 strikeouts as South Elgin (14-3, 12-2) took the rubber game of the series against West Aurora (14-6-1, 10-4-1), 4-2.
Benjamin beats Iowa Cubs: Congratulations to former St. Charles East/University of Kansas standout pitcher Wes Benjamin on recording his first Triple-A victory for the Nashville Sounds (Texas Rangers organization) this past weekend.
Benjamin, a left-hander, pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings during Nashville's 7-3 victory over the Iowa Cubs Sunday in Des Moines.
Ironically, Benjamin's pitching opponent was Mike Montgomery, who recorded the final out for the Chicago Cubs in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Montgomery was on a rehab assignment.
Iowa's starting lineup also included Ian Happ and Addison Russell.
You can reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org