MAPLE PARK – Angel Lara-Acevedo picked the right time to hit his first career home run, hitting what would be the difference in the bottom of the fourth inning as the Kaneland baseball team defeated Aurora Central Catholic to capture the Class 3A Maple Park Regional championship, 8-4 on Saturday.
The Knights had just tied the game 4-4 and had runners on second and third with two outs in the bottom of the third. Chargers coach Sean Bieterman elected to walk Luke Gomes and load the bases for the left-handed hitting Lara-Acevedo. Lara-Acevedo then sent a 2-0 fastball sailing over the right field fence with very little doubt as to whether or not it would leave the yard for the grand slam.
“When they walked Luke [Gomes], I kind of took it as an insult,” Lara-Acevedo said. “They did what they had to do. I was just looking to put the ball in play.”
The Knights advance to face Burlington Central, an 8-7 winner over Freeport, in Wednesday's sectional semifinal at Sterling.
Kaneland got off to another slow start, though. Pitcher Robert Dudzinski was pulled after only making it through one inning of work, surrendering three earned runs on two hits, striking out two and walking three. One of those hits was a two-run homer by Chargers second baseman Alex Rakas, which gave them a 3-0 lead at the time.
The Knights were strong from there on out. Alex Buchanan came on in relief and pitched six solid innings, scattering six hits and striking out six while only allowing one run.
“I was just ready to go for whatever was needed,” Buchanan said. “I wasn’t expecting to throw that many, but it was nice to get out there and win.”
Earlier this month, Kaneland put up a 13-run inning in the bottom of the sixth against Marmion to beat them 13-3.
“These guys are gelling at the right time,” Knights coach Brian Aversa said. “They’re starting to act like family and that makes it so much easier to go out and back each other up on the field.”