SYCAMORE – When Cole Nelson warmed up in the bullpen beyond the left-field fence at Sycamore Park, he knew he was going to have his good stuff for Monday’s Northern Illinois Big 12 East series opener against Kaneland.
Turned out Nelson’s feel was right.
The Sycamore standout’s fastball had good location and was going right by the Knights batters, who weren’t able to do much when Nelson tossed a breaking ball up to the plate.
Nelson gave up only three hits, didn’t walk a batter and struck out nine in the Spartans’ 1-0 baseball win.
“Everything was working,” said Nelson, who improved to 4-1. “I didn’t even throw my changeup once. From warming up in the bullpen, I knew everything was working, everything was going.”
The Knights (12-8, 7-3 NI Big 12 East) had runners on first and third in the second inning courtesy of singles by Sean Dunphy and Anthony Holubecki, but Nelson struck out Jacob Bachio and got Connor Fedderly to ground out to first to end the threat.
Kaneland had only two more baserunners the rest of the game – Austin Wheatley reached on an error in the third, and Bachio singled to center in the fifth on a ball Spartans center fielder Brett Weaver nearly caught with a diving effort.
Nelson got better and better as the game went on, retiring the final eight Kaneland batters.
“Cole was spinning the ball up there nicely and keeping us on our toes. Changing speeds, changing eye level like any pitcher would,” Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said. “We try to put the ball in play; they played great defense today. ... It’s tough to beat a team that doesn’t make mistakes, so we kind of needed to keep putting the ball in play a little more and make them make a mistake.”
Sycamore (18-3, 8-2 NI Big 12 East) got its only run in the first inning against Kaneland starter Curtis Thorson, when leadoff hitter Mark Skelley started the frame by reaching on an error.
Skelley scored on a Cooper Vinz RBI ground out to short.
Aversa went with Thorson instead of Holubecki, who has been the Knights’ normal Monday starter, because he felt the big dimensions at Sycamore Park favored Thorson, who also had a few more days rest.
Thorson gave up only four hits in a complete-game effort, walking two and striking out four.
“Curtis was on tonight, he did a great job,” Aversa said. “We were waiting for that one break for our side, and we never got it. Curt put us in a position to win.”