Baseball: Kaneland avenges loss, wins regional
Kaneland baseball coach Brian Aversa could finally breathe a little easier.
Aversa's top-seeded Knights were able to hold on for a 3-2 win over fourth-seeded Burlington Central Saturday in the Class 3A Central regional title game held at Judson University in Elgin on Saturday.
The Knights recorded a school-record 27th win against 9 losses and advance to the Sycamore sectional against Dixon at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Dixon defeated Rochelle 8-2 in the title game of the Rochelle regional.
Kaneland avenged a 10-8- sectional loss to Burlington Central last season.
"All the kids were talking about was getting revenge against Central," said Aversa. "Central has a great program and they never quit and it is always fun to play them."
The Knights scored 2 in the first courtesy of a 2-RBI triple by Tom Shaw and plated a run in the second on a run-scoring single by Angel Acevedo off losing pitcher Zachary Zuiker.
Operating with a 3-0 lead, Kaneland senior pitcher Alex Buchanan retired the first 12 Rocket (19-15) hitters he faced.
Kyle Fischer broke up the perfect game by reaching base to start the fifth on a walk. Brenden Rindhage broke up the no-hitter with a double moving Fischer to third. Fischer scored on an RBI single by Ethan Krieger. Rindhage scored on a sacrifice fly from Jake Jarvis to slice the Knights' lead to 3-2 after 5 innings.
The Rockets mounted a 2-out rally against Buchanan in the seventh. Rindhage reached on a dropped third strike while Krieger singled to put runners on first and second. Buchanan induced Jarvis to hit a comebacker to the mound to end the game and give the Knights the regional championship.
Buchanan struck out 5 and walked 1 in a 7-inning complete game win.
"This was a great revenge win for us and the seniors," said Buchanan. "That was a very tough loss to Central last season. My fastball and change were working early and I got a little unfocused in the fifth."
Aversa wasn't going to take Buchanan out under any circumstances.
"Alex is a bulldog and he wanted the ball," said Aversa. "I knew he would get through the fifth all right. He is always up to the challenge.'
Zuiker, after allowing 3 runs in the first 2 innings, blanked the Knights in the third and fourth. Danny Kinney, who relieved Zuiker in the fifth with nobody out, blanked Kaneland in 2 innings of work.
"Zachary really settled down after the first 2 innings and gave us a chance in the game and Danny was outstanding in relief," said Central coach Kyle Nelson. "We kept battling until the last out. We really competed. We had great at-bats all day. We were a tenth under a lot of balls which could have been hits.
"We won conference (Kishwaukee River) for the first time since 2015. I am proud of the seniors. They came a long way this season."