SYCAMORE – Everything – from the three errors, to a throw that hit a runner, to a balk – went wrong for the Sycamore baseball team in the first inning Monday against Burlington Central.
Burlington Central capitalized on the miscues, scored four times and cruised to a 9-4 win against Sycamore in a Class 3A regional championship.
“We haven’t played that bad of an inning the entire year,” Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. “Both from a pitching standpoint and a defensive standpoint, everything that could have possibly gone wrong in the first inning did. We ended up with three or four errors in the innings, a couple of walks, a balk. Everything that possibly could have gone wrong did. We had a throw from the outfield hit a runner and ricochet.”
Jack Gilroy started the rally for the Rockets (16-11) with a double off Sycamore starter Ethan Storm and scored on a double by Brady Gilroy. But a two-out error by Owen Piazza prolonged the inning, then Storm committed a throwing error on a pickoff and a balk in close succession.
Grant Morris and Luke Pedrigi capped the scoring with two-out singles.
“I think it definitely drives the stake into the coffin,” Morris said. “It really set the tone for how we play and how aggressive we are. I don’t think the other team was ready. It caught them by surprise, it put them on their heels, and I don’t think we ever stopped pushing. They really started to slow down at the end, and we never stopped.”
In the bottom of the first, the ball never left the infield for the Spartans (19-10). Jimmy Amptmann legged out an infield single, but three ground outs induced by Central freshman pitcher Michael Person preserved a 4-0 lead after one inning.
Person allowed six hits and three runs, two earned, in three-plus innings, while Carpenter allowed four hits and one run in four innings.
“Anytime you score you want to come back and shut the other team down right away, kind of grab that momentum,” Central coach Kyle Nelson said. “Michael didn’t have his best stuff today, but Carp’s been great for us all year. He threw a complete-game shutout against Cary in his first start. ... He had a walk today, I think that was his second walk this year in something like 20 innings.”
The bottom of the Central order produced four straight hits, chasing Storm from the game and putting the Rockets ahead, 6-1. Carpenter had a two-run double in the inning.
The Spartans added two in the bottom of the third, both on a double by Storm. Still down, 6-3, in the bottom of the fourth, Tommy Townsend led off with a double to chase Person, and then with one out Jules Breidenbach singled to set up runners at first and third. But the Spartans couldn’t capitalize.
“I thought maybe we have a chance now,” Cavanaugh said. “But when we had first and third and one out and didn’t score that run to make it 6-4, I thought we were kind of in trouble at that point. But I have to give them all the credit in the world. They made the plays and we didn’t.”
Morris finished the game with three of Central’s 12 hits. He scored three times and drove in a run.
When the teams played in April, Sycamore won, 2-0.
“Our first game, I don’t think anyone was ready for varsity,” Morris said. “They took us by surprise this game. After playing in a conference with all 4A schools, playing teams like Prairie Ridge and Huntley, we were prepared. More than prepared. We were coming into this really ready to drive this team into the ground.”
Pedrigi went 3 for 3, scoring twice and driving in a run. Jack Gilroy added three hits, including two doubles. Carpenter had a pair of hits, a run and three RBIs.
Burlington Central will play Dixon in a sectional semifinal Wednesday. The teams did not play this season.
“I know they’ve had a good program lately,” Nelson said. “They’ll be a competitive group and a scrappy group. We’ve got to do the same thing we did today - barrel balls, play defense and throw strikes.”
Storm went 2 for 4 with an RBI an a run scored for the Spartans. Amptmann also had a pair of singles.
Sycamore’s season comes to an end with the loss.
“We went 19-10 and a lot of time we’re starting five or six sophomores and a couple of young juniors.” Cavanaugh said. “I’m happy with 19-10 at this point. And I think we had a lot of one-run losses. I think we had six one-run losses. Next year, when the guys are preparing to play, one hit is going to make a difference. It’s going to turn a one-run loss into a one-run win.”