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Area athletes react to IHSA canceling spring postseason tournaments

'Ever since my freshman year, [I] dreamed of winning a state championship my senior year with my best friends'

Photo courtesy of Burlington Central senior pitcher Andrew Knowlton
Photo courtesy of Burlington Central senior pitcher Andrew Knowlton

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HAMPSHIRE – Burlington Central senior pitcher Andrew Knowlton fondly recalled his first varsity experience.

As a sophomore, he was called up to the varsity level and was slated for a relief appearance. A quick change of plans suddenly thrusted him onto the mound for a start against Belvidere North.

"I did super good," Knowlton, the third-year varsity member recalled. "I think I had 10 strikeouts through five innings."

That performance helped set the table for what was to come for Knowlton in his varsity career. He pitched in three games as a sophomore, but returned with a strong junior campaign.

Knowlton went 3-3 in 44.2 innings pitched, and had a 2.81 earned run average for the Rockets en route to a regional final appearance last year.

His career, however, was heavily cut short earlier this week due to the IHSA's decision to cancel the spring tournaments. The IHSA has left the possibility open for competition if it is deemed safe from state and medical personnel.

"Everyone was so excited since we're going into the [Fox Valley] Conference," Knowlton said. "We thought we'd do really good...we thought we could make a run in the playoffs. We saw the tournament get cancelled, [it] kind of ruins everything. Everyone is disappointed: coaches, players."

Knowlton, who is currently uncommitted, has since been proactive reaching out to colleges. He has offers from Division II program Bemidji State University, the University of Wisconsin-Stout and Mount Mercy in Iowa.

"Ever since my freshman year, [I] dreamed of winning a state championship my senior year with my best friends," Knowlton continued.

Other programs like St. Charles North baseball and St. Charles East softball – both second in Class 4A in the respective sports last season – don't get a follow-up campaign.

Nor, the St. Charles co-op lacrosse team, who made a state semifinals appearance, or St. Charles North girls soccer, who reached four consecutive super sectionals the past four seasons.

St. Charles North senior tennis standout Connor Bajuk, with three state tournament appearances in his career, won't get a fourth opportunity to compete there.

As a junior and in his first season in singles play, Bajuk reached the fourth round of the consolation bracket last season. Bajuk, in doubles pairs in his first two seasons, reached the third round of the consolation bracket as a sophomore and the second consolation round as a freshman.

"I know nobody really could've seen it coming in terms of just from last year and moving on," Bajuk began. "Because everyone was looking forward to this year and just getting further [and] improving in the last year."

Bajuk projects to either walk-on or play club tennis at Ohio State University next fall.

"It really is a shock, unfortunately, to have a lot of that taken away," Bajuk continued. "A lot of the sacrifices that a lot of us have is tough, but unfortunately, [we] kind of have to look forward again."

Bajuk, a co-captain last season, will miss the North Stars' program bond.

"You're competitive on the court, but outside the court, we talk a lot to the St. Charles East kids and we're good friends with a lot of them," Bajuk said. "Even within our own team, we're all really good friends."

"Tennis always seems to be an individual sport, but when you're on a team, you're able to support each other; it's just really, really important."

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