IHSA baseball, softball sectionals: One thing to know about Kaneland, Sycamore

Sycamore baseball, softball, Kaneland softball enter sectional semifinals Wednesday.

Sycamore players celebrate after winning the Class 3A regional championship over Dixon Thursday, May 23, 2024, at Rochelle High School.

The Sycamore baseball and softball teams are playing in home sectional semifinals Wednesday, and since the softball team is playing Kaneland, at least one of the three area teams is guaranteed a spot in a sectional final.

So as the Kaneland and Sycamore softball teams prepare for their third meeting of the season at 4:30 p.m. Thursday and Sycamore baseball faces Wheaton Academy at 4 p.m. Wednesday, here is something to know about each team.

Sycamore softball can avenge one of its 3 losses

Technically, the Spartans (31-3) already have beaten the Knights (12-13-1) since a 3-0 loss in Sycamore on April 22, winning 10-1 in Maple Park on May 8.

Kaneland is the only 3A school Sycamore has lost to this season. McHenry, still alive in the Class 4A postseason, split an April 20 doubleheader between the schools. Oswego, also playing this week in the 4A sectionals, also had a 8-7 win over Sycamore.

The Knights and starter Brynn Woods also are the only team to shut out the Spartans this season. Woods struck out 15 in a three-hitter when the teams first met in April. She only pitched two innings in the second meeting, striking out four and allowing one hit before being lifted.

The Spartans enter the sectional on a hot streak, outscoring Rochelle and Dixon by a combined 33-1 in regionals. Last year, in a Class 3A Belvidere North Sectional semifinal, Sycamore beat Kaneland 9-1 in a game that started at Belvidere North and ended under the lights at the Sycamore Park District.

Woods is dominating for Kaneland

Sycamore is not the only team that has had a hard time figuring out Woods this year. The sophomore struck out a combined 30 and walked one in 14 innings against Crystal Lake Central and Woodstock North in regionals. Kaneland claimed the regional crown with a 2-1 win over Woodstock North after a 3-0 win against Crystal Lake Central.

Woods has been used sparingly this season but has been dominant in her starts. Her last loss was May 1, a 6-3 decision against Ottawa in which she allowed seven hits and a walk while striking out five.

She didn’t pitch again until those two strong innings against Sycamore a week later. Then May 15 she threw a complete-game, five-hitter against Morris while striking out 10 and walking one in a 6-1 Kaneland win. That was her last appearance before the win against Crystal Lake Central in the postseason.

Kaneland coach Madison Mikos said Woods has an ongoing shoulder injury and the team has been limiting her time, although she’s expected to start Thursday.

Sycamore baseball coach equates Spartans’ season to 90s hit movie

For a stretch in mid-April, the Sycamore bats could not be silenced. Between a 19-2 win against Rochelle on April 10 and a 12-10 win against Kaneland two weeks later, the Spartans (26-7) scored at least eight runs in seven of the 11 games they played during that stretch.

In the 16 games since, they’ve reached double digits once and have four or fewer runs 10 times. They’ll face Wheaton Academy (31-5) in a Class 3A Sycamore Sectional semifinal at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Coach Jason Cavanaugh said it was like the movie Space Jam, in which cartoon aliens stole the basketball skills of all-star players.

Aliens or not, the Spartans’ bats showed signs of life in the Class 3A Dixon Regional final Saturday. Sycamore trailed 3-1 in the eighth but scored three runs to come from behind against Dixon.

There’s a chance the Spartans will have to face Nate Burden, who set the Wheaton Academy program record for wins and is 8-0 this season.

“Beginning of the year we’re scoring 10 runs a game, we’re stringing together extra-base hits and hitting homers,” Cavanaugh said. “And then it’s like in Space Jam, the aliens came and stole all our powers. You saw all the at-bats today where it’s just a lack of competitive at-bats. I think we had two or three hits going into the last inning.

“It was one inning of good baseball and a whole bunch of bad innings, offensively speaking. Let’s hope we can get it going again and make some noise at the sectional at our place.”

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