The Kaneland baseball team rallied for four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning Wednesday, but Burlington Central's Zach Zuiker struck out Angel Acevedo with the tying runs on base to preserve the Rockets' 10-8 win in a Class 3A Sterling Sectional semifinal.
“Give our guys credit for not giving up,” Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said. “That’s been the tone all year. Last game, we got down 3-0 and didn’t panic. Burlington was just a little too much to handle.”
With the win, the Rockets (24-9) are back in the sectional final for the second straight year. They will play Stillman Valley, a 3-2 winner over Sterling, at 11 a.m. Saturday morning.
The Knights (21-9) trailed 10-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth, when Nick Ortegel reached on an error after Nic Panico was hit by a pitch. After Zach Farris walked, Thomas Shaw was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, then Jon Alstott reached on an error, scoring another to make it 10-6.
Alijah Acevedo reached on an error to score Farris, then Luke Gomes flew out to make it 10-8, but they couldn’t get any closer.
The Rockets built a quick 6-0 lead. Andrew Griffin had a two-run single in a three-run first. Burlington Central made it 6-0 in the second on Caden Scott's two-run single. But the Knights scored four in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to two.
“You never want to fall behind, especially in sectionals,” Aversa said. “Even if we fell behind, we were still comfortable. We have a never say die attitude, and the guys showed it again today.”
Alstott singled home Ortegel and Farris to start the scoring the second for Kaneland. Gomes grounded out to score Shaw, then a groundout by Angel Acevedo brought home Shaw to make it 6-4.
The Rockets added two in the fourth on Ryan Knowlton's two-run homer, his third homer in three games, and two in the fifth to build the lead back to six.
Gomes drove in two runs in the loss as Kaneland managed just four hits. Ortegel scored twice. Colton Wallace was 2-for-2 with three RBIs for Burlington Central.