Askew's grand slam breaks open 12-2 Knights' win
SYCAMORE — The field was bogged down with water and the figurative floodgates were ready to break with the bases loaded in the third inning Thursday. Kaneland’s Dalton Askew came to the plate ready to break open the levy in what proved to be a 12-2 Knights win over Sycamore.
Askew walloped Sycamore pitcher Jared Grubbs’ offering over the fence just left of dead center for a grand slam and pushed the Knights (20-9, 9-3 in the Northern Illinois Big 12) ahead 7-1 in the third inning.
“I knew from previous at-bats that he was going to be throwing that pitch and he missed his spot and I took advantage," Askew said.
The two home runs — Nik Panico hit a two-run homer in the fourth — weren't the expectation on the cold, dreary, day, but Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said Askew doesn't miss those pitches often.
“I’m not expecting us to hit home runs all the time," Aversa said. "But putting a good barrel on the ball, we hadn’t done that the last two games so we expected to be better today, and we were.”
Askew finished a 2 for 3 day with two runs and four RBIs.
"Dalton doesn’t miss many pitches," Aversa added.
With the victory, Kaneland finishes, at worst, co-champs in the NIB 12's final season. If the Spartans lose Monday, Kaneland is the outright champion.
"Certainly didn't come out and play like we were a team competing for a conference championship," Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said.
The Knights added on in the third by way of a fielder’s choice groundout by Nick Ortegel and a long sacrifice fly by Mikey Rogers for a 9-1 lead over the Spartans (18-6, 7-3).
Defensive miscues compounded the trouble for Sycamore.
“We just made so many mistakes in the same inning and that happens a lot in high school baseball gams," Cavanaugh said.
Panico's homer and Bryce Stair's sacrifice fly in the fourth inning put Kaneland at its final run tally.
Angel Acevedo struck out eight Spartans while walking six and allowing two hits.
“My curveball felt pretty good coming out of my hand today," Acevedo said. "I had to control it a bit today. It was a little wild. There were a couple good ones, but my fastball made up for it.”
The Knights broke through for their first runs in the second inning when Jonathan Alstott and Tommy Shaw ripped consecutive singles to score a run each as Kaneland went up 2-0.
"We played really these last couple days," Logan Riley said. "I think we need to get our head in the game a little bit because we came out and weren't really ready."
By the numbers: Gavin Crofoort went 2 for 2 with the lone hits for the Spartans. Sycamore scored runs when Austin Bunge came home on a wild pitch and a grounder off the bat of Gage Armstrong resulted in an error and Logan Riley scored. Five Kaneland players (Joe Born, Panico, Shaw, Askew and Alstott) finished with two hits apiece. Born was 2 for 4 with two runs. Shaw was 2 for 2 with three runs. Panico drove in two runs, as did Rogers, Panico and Nick Ortegel. Alstott finished 2 for 3 with two runs scored.
Jared Grubbs took the loss after surrendering nine runs (five earned) in three innings. Sycamore, after making zero errors in the first two games of the series, committed three Thursday.
Beyond the stats: The game was moved back an hour due to weather and the need to dry the field. The ground between home plate and the pitchers was mud-filled, while the fields surrounding the diamond were swamped with standing water.
They said it: “Nothing beats it," Askew said about the home run. "The joy and satisfaction you get from it can’t compare to anything else.”
“We knew it would have to be a low-scoring game for us to win unless they made a lot of mistakes, which they didn’t," Cavanaugh said. "When you face a pitcher who’s that good, you have to match him on the mound and you have to match his intensity at the plate.”
"Finally we broke out of our little slump the last two nights and our bats were on par with what we’ve been doing all year," Aversa said.
Up next: Sycamore will continue a suspended game Monday versus Morris and then will play a final game to cap the conference season against Morris immediately after. Kaneland hosts a doubleheader against Plainfield Central Saturday.