Baseball: Bottom of the order helps Sycamore end Burlington Central's season in sectional final
With the middle of the Sycamore order having a collective off day, Collin Severson and the back of the lineup picked things up.
Severson broke up Burlington Central starter Chase Powrozek's perfect game and sparked two big innings as the Spartans beat the Rockets 8-3 to claim the Class 3A Kaneland sectional championship on Saturday.
"We always say our back of the lineup is as good as anyone else's," Severson said. "It showed today. I was just looking first-pitch fastball, and I saw it come and I was ready to hit it. That sparked us."
Severson's one-out single in the third was followed by No. 9 hitter Joey Puleo's infield hit. Kiefer Tarnoki drove in a run on a single with Puleo scoring when the centerfielder misplayed the ball. Tarnoki came home on a wild pitch for a 3-0 lead for the Spartans (34-5).
In the fourth Matthew Rosado and Owen Piazza started the inning with singles. Severson then ripped a ground-rule double over the right fielder's head on a hit that would have been a two-run triple had it not bounced over the fence.
"I knew it was getting down and I was ready to go all the way," Severson said. "When [coach Jason Cavanaugh] put up his hands saying it was a double, I was a little bummed out because I knew how much it could have been."
Tarnoki's two-run double in the inning pushed the lead to 6-0.
That was more than enough for Sycamore starter Jimmy Amptmann, who cruised into the sixth before allowing three unearned runs. Considering the Spartans were without two top bullpen arms and the 90-degree heat, Cavanaugh said it was a gutsy performance.
"We were hoping he could go deep into the game today," Cavanaugh said of Amptmann, who took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. "Ideally he gets us through five innings, we got to Matthew [Rosado] for one and [Conner] Williar for one if we need to do that. But it was a huge performance for us. He stepped up and was the guy for us when we needed him to be.
Central (20-17) had four hits in the game, all off Amptmann. Mitchell Pedrigi had two of the hits, including a two-run, two-out single that chased Amptmann in the sixth and cut the lead to 8-3.
Rockets coach Kyle Nelson said he liked his team's approach at the plate but Amptmann was on his game.
"We did what we wanted to do," Nelson said. "We were aggressive with the bats. We came out and swung aggressively. We were just a little under things or a little bit behind at times. I thought we had good approaches. He's just electric sometimes, and today was one of those days."
Nelson also said he liked the way Powrozek pitched, as well as the fight the Rockets showed with their sixth-inning performance down eight runs.
"I'm proud of us battling back," Nelson said. "I'm proud of us being down 8-0 and not giving up against a great arm like that, coming back and fighting and realizing you're never out of it. And it's good to see."
Overall Nelson said he was pleased with the way the year went for the Rockets.
"I thought we competed really well in our conference, and to get a regional crown and play for a chance to go to a supersectional," Nelson said. "I can't ask for much more than that."
While the Rockets' year is over, Sycamore will face Rock Island in the Class 3A Geneseo supersectional at 6 p.m. Monday. The Spartans went to Geneseo for a supersectional last season, losing to Washington.
The two through five hitters in the Sycamore lineup were a combined 2 for 16, although one of those hits was a home run to center field by Kyle Hartmann that pushed the Spartans ahead 7-0 in the fifth. Puleo was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded later in the frame to score Rosado and push the lead to 8-0.
Severson was 3 for 4, scored twice and drove in a run. Puleo had a hit, and RBI and two runs scored. No. 7 hitter Piazza had two singles, and Tarnoki had two hits, three RBIs and scored.
"Those guys getting it done," Cavanaugh said. "All those guys at the bottom of the order got to two strikes quickly and then they would just compete. Hit foul balls and take balls until they either walked or got the ball in play somehow."