Prep baseball: Ethan Storm blasts two homers in support of Griffin Hallahan gem in Sycamore win

Sycamore's Griffin Hallahan delivers a pitch against Belvidere at the Class 3A Regional on May 25 , 2022 in Belvidere

BELVIDERE – A second-inning home run by Ethan Storm was all the offense Griffin Hallahan needed in a 12-strikeout performance Wednesday against Belvidere.

Storm’s third-inning home run was just icing on the cake as the Spartans opened the Class 3A Belvidere Regional with a 9-0 win over the Bucs.

“I just wanted to take it easy and maintain my barrel control,” Storm said. “I’ve been hitting the ball lately but haven’t been hitting as well as I wanted to. So it was a big focus of mine - just slow down, take a deep breath and be confident in what I can do.”

Storm’s homer in the bottom of the second broke a scoreless tie. With the score still 1-0 in the bottom of the third – Sycamore was the home team because the Spartans are a higher seed than the Bucs – the Spartans exploded for six more runs, capped by a two-run blast from Storm.

Both home runs ended up in about the same spot over the fence in the left-center power alley.

“If you throw him fastballs up in the strike zone, he’s going to do damage,” Sycamore coach Jason Cavanaugh said. “That’s what he did today. Two balls, almost to the exact same spot. That was three of our first six runs he drove in.”

It was more than enough for Callahan, who struck out 12 in six innings. At one point, he retired 16 straight after letting the first two batters reach. The streak ended on a strikeout, with Dylan Bear striking out but reaching first on a passed ball.

“It starts with the starting pitcher and Griff did a wonderful job on the mound,” Cavanaugh said. “He threw just enough offspeed pitches, but his fastball was overpowering today. After that first inning, the bottom of the lineup wasn’t able to do anything against him.”

The Bucs (5-19) threatened in the first when Bear led off with a walk, got to second on a single by Blake Stark then stole third.

With two outs and runners still at the corners, Stark took off for second on a steal attempt. However, catcher Byron Blaise instead threw to third and caught Bear leaning the wrong way for the third out. The Bucs had two base runners the rest of the game.

Cavanaugh said it was a big play in a big spot.

“You just never know with this one-and-done baseball in the playoffs and the pressure that’s here,” Cavanaugh said. “If they get a run there, and then they get a bloop hit, all of a sudden they have a two-run lead and the game ends up playing out a lot differently. We did a good job keeping our calm after the first two guys got on.”

Jimmy Amptmann pitched the seventh, striking out two after allowing a leadoff walk. Cavanaugh said Amptmann has mostly been a starter this year but likely will be used mainly out of the pen in the postseason, and he wanted to get him some relief work before the playoffs rolled on too far.

Amptmann also had a single, a run and an RBI in the win for the Spartans (25-6). Storm and Kiefer Tarnoki both had two-hit games for Sycamore, with Tarnoki going 2 for 4 and scoring twice.

Cavanaugh said the team wasn’t even sure if the game would be played; it rained most of the bus ride north to Belvidere.

“When we got on the bus in Sycamore it was pouring rain,” Cavanaugh said. “And it poured all the way through Genoa today. So we’re on the bus thinking how are we going to play this game. We’re all looking at the radar, looking at different weather apps, and it’s all saying it’s going to rain. Somehow these guys knew it wasn’t and they were spot on. I don’t think we had quite the focus we should have had for a regional game, but once we settled in the second time through the lineup we were able to do a lot better.”