BURLINGTON – The winds gusted from center field Wednesday, which was fine with Tommy Shaw.
Shaw put the weight of the Kaneland baseball team on his back for six innings of one-run ball as the Knights advanced in the Class 3A Burlington Central Regional final beating Genoa Kingston, 4-1.
"It's really good to have in the back of your head that if you make a mistake, it will probably be just another fly ball," Shaw said of pitching with a strong wind at his back. "A few of my strikeouts and a few popups, I went with a high fastball because they'd hit it up and we'd have a guy there."
Both teams traded a scoreless three innings until Kaneland (26-9) struck first in the fourth inning. Kaneland could have done more damage with the bases loaded and nobody out, but a brilliant defensive play by Cogs second baseman Hunter Zweifel took what could have been a two-RBI single away from Shaw, holding him to just an RBI fielder's choice. Ben Franson pitched his way through the rest of the inning unscathed for the Cogs.
"We knew it was going to be a battle from the beginning," Knights coach Brian Aversa said. "The wind today was the great equalizer. I thought that we came to the plate with a good approach, and sometimes you just don't execute. Once we started to get guys on base and get them moving around and put pressure on their defense, that's when things started to happen."
The Knights added three insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. But the Cogs (11-17) made it very interesting in the top of the seventh after Shaw was lifted for Alex Buchanan, who inherited runners on the corners with no outs. The Cogs scored on Buchanan's first pitch, a passed ball off catcher Nik Panico's outstretched glove.
Buchanan eventually shut the door when he struck out Will Franson, the tying run, with an off-speed pitch off the plate. Although the season didn't end the way they had hoped, Cogs coach Roger Butler said that his team proved that even though they're green, they can compete with anyone.
"The future's bright in G-K," Butler said. "This team is young. We talked in our locker room about how nobody outside of this team thinks that we can come in here and play with Kaneland. They have to believe in themselves. I believe in them. They came out here and proved that they can play with the big guys."
Kaneland will play the winner of Central and Wheaton Academy at 10 a.m. Saturday for the regional championship.