MAPLE PARK – Kaneland batters knew it would be a challenge to get on base against Sandwich starting pitcher Jake Roehn in Friday’s IHSA Class 3A Kaneland Regional semifinal.
Roehn, an Ohio State recruit, already had 103 strikeouts to his credit, a Sandwich school record.
The Knights did go down swinging 10 times, but they took advantage of the base hits the right-hander gave up to beat the Indians, 6-0, and advance to today’s title game against St. Francis.
“The bats came alive for an inning or two – that’s all we needed," Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said. “Our guys did a great job of putting the ball into play.”
While Kaneland pitcher Curtis Thorson (5-4) was not able to match Roehn on strikesout, he did force many of the Sandwich batters to hit the ball on the ground right at Knights fielders. Kaneland recorded 13 put-outs on the ground.
“The location of my fast ball and occasionally my curveball was throwing them off balance,” said Thorson, who allowed no walks and scattered six singles for the complete game shutout.
“Curtis did an excellent job. We were confident in his ability,” Aversa said of the sophomore. “And the defense played well behind him.”
The Knights took the lead in the second when they scored five of their runs.
Kaneland (13-17) batters connected for three singles in a row to start the inning.
The first run scored on the third single, a shot to left field by Thorson. The relay from the left fielder got away from Sandwich’s third baseman, allowing John Hopkins, who hit the first single, to score.
Zach Martinelli’s bouncing ground ball glanced off the mitt of Indians first baseman Trey Jansen, plating Ty Carlson.
Thorson scored the third run on a squeeze bunt by Tyler Bellock. Dan Miller then notched an RBI when Martinelli crossed the plate on his groundout.
Matt Limbrunner’s triple to right-center , the only extra base hit of the day, knocked in Bellock for the fifth run.
“It was 0-2 so you got to protect [the plate],” Limbrunner said. “The ball just happened to be right there.”
“After the first inning our guys came back and they were talking to each other about what they were seeing,” Aversa said. “The guys made the adjustments they needed to. We were waiting for our pitch and getting it no matter where in the count.”
“It came down to one bad inning. Other than that we would have been right there,” said Sandwich coach Jason Van Pelt, whose team finished up at 13-13. “It was one of those innings where a lot crazy things happened. They got a few hits on Jake and took advantage of their opportunities when they got them.”
A Carlson single plated Joe Komel in the fifth inning for the sixth run.
Aversa thought facing Roehn (2-3) will help his team today against St. Francis.
"It will be a tough game but we are up to the challenge," Aversa said. “If we can hang with Roehn, we are confident in our abilities [for today].”