Burlington Central has been one of the area’s best programs in recent years, winning 20 or more games each of the past four seasons.
The Rockets haven’t had as smooth of a ride this spring. Entering Monday’s game against Richmond-Burton, Central was 7-8 overall with a 6-2 mark in Big Northern Conference East action.
“We don’t have those same kind of established hitters we’ve had over the past couple years but we still have enough talent to compete,” Central coach Kyle Nelson said. “We’ve been pretty competitive in all of our games. We just seem to have one or two big innings we can’t get out of, and that’s been the difference in four or five games here.”
Nelson said ragged defense has been the most pervasive door-opener when it comes to those melt-down innings. He’s been happy with his pitching rotation, which includes No. 1 Danny Gerke in addition to fellow right-handers Alex Bell, Jake Schutta and Ryan Schuring.
Nelson said this year’s team doesn’t have as advanced of a baseball IQ as some of his recent powerhouses.
“It’s been a lot of tactical stuff as well, and some of that goes with just not having played much baseball this year,” Nelson said. “Even our seniors are relatively young as far as playing because our roster has been so top-heavy the last few years.”
Nelson, though, is optimistic the Rockets can close the season in strong fashion as the Class 3A postseason approaches later this month.
“I think we do have enough talent to compete with just about anyone in our regional, sectional,” Nelson said. “It’s just a matter of whether we can make routine plays.”
Geneva call-up off to strong start
Geneva has played its best baseball in recent weeks, and the arrival of a sophomore call-up is seemingly playing a part in the team’s uptick.
Catcher Nate Montgomery, who was on the sophomore team for the first half of the season, was recently promoted to varsity, and already has made six starts behind the plate for the Vikings.
Montgomery is showing a capable bat, including a 3 for 3 day with a double in Thursday’s 3-0 win against Larkin. He added two hits and an RBI on Saturday in a 6-3, Game 2 win against Batavia.
Postseason seeds for classes 3A and 4A are scheduled to be released by the IHSA today, with the pairings to follow on Wednesday.
The pairings for classes 1A and 2A were unveiled last week.
Intra-city rivals Aurora Central Catholic and Aurora Christian are both part of the five-team IHSA Class 2A Westminster Christian Regional. The Chargers are the regional’s top seed, while the Eagles are seeded third.
– Jay Schwab, email@example.com
IN THE GROOVE
St. Charles East, Sr., P
What he did: Huskisson earned a pair of pitching wins last week, defeating St. Charles North on April 29 at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark and Streamwood as part of a doubleheader on Saturday. Both wins were shutouts for the Saints.
Geneva, Sr., IF
What he did: Bragg continued his hot, late-season slugging, homering on consecutive days Tuesday and Wednesday against Larkin, and adding three hits in a Geneva win Saturday against Batavia in a doubleheader split.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
Solid pitching is propelling Kaneland toward the .500 mark.
The Knights, who struggled to start the season, improved to 10-11 on the strength of their latest, quality pitching performance Saturday as Blake Sowell pitched six innings of two-run ball in a 4-2 Kaneland win against Rochelle.
WHAT WE’LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Whether Batavia or Geneva is going to win the rubber game of their series.
The rivals are due to meet this afternoon in Geneva after splitting the first two games of the series in a Saturday doubleheader. The Bulldogs badly need to win to keep the pressure on fellow Upstate Eight Conference River contender St. Charles East, which enterered the week leading Batavia by a game in the River standings.
COACH SLY SAYS
Much like in football, it’s been nice to see Aurora Central Catholic bust out and have a huge season. Fresh blood atop the standings is always cool to see.
ACC baseball hasn’t been heard from much in recent years, so to see the Chargers piling up the wins this spring is quite the sight.
Give it up to new coach Sean Bieterman and the Chargers. In some ways, the baseball turnaround is even more remarkable than the football team breaking the playoff drought. The Chargers’ football team’s improvement was step-by-step these past few years, whereas baseball has seen a dramatic, one-year turnaround.