JOLIET, Ill. -- Kaneland’s focus was locked into winning its first baseball regional title when the playoffs began last month.
The Knights thought whatever that came after a regional title would be an added bonus.
That bonus turned out to be the Class 3A state championship Saturday when Kaneland defeated Oak Forest 11-4 at Silver Cross Stadium in Joliet.
After losing six games during a seven-game stretch in early May, Kaneland flipped the switch in the season’s final month. The Knights won their last 13 games, capped off by Saturday’s victory, and surprised the Class 3A field by capturing their first state baseball title.
“In the regional, we were pretty nervous because we hadn’t won a regional before,” Kaneland senior second baseman Brian Dixon said. “After that, we were just like, ‘Let’s go up from there.’ It feels great to kind of be that underdog and go in here in with nothing to lose, and everyone else has something to lose.
“I don’t even know how to take this in right now. My last game as a senior at Kaneland, winning state, it’s the best feeling ever. I couldn’t ask anything better right now.”
Dixon lived the perfect dream ending to his high school career. Although he had his struggles at the plate during the season, hitting just .215, and was slotted in the eighth spot in Kaneland’s order on Saturday, he emerged as the Knights’ offensive hero against Oak Forest.
Dixon went 3-for-4 with one run and four RBIs. He drove in his first run with a single to left field in the fourth inning to put Kaneland ahead 3-2. He added another RBI with a single to right field in the Kaneland’s six-run fifth inning. Finally, he closed out his day with a two-run double in the sixth inning.
“I’m happiest for Brian Dixon, great game, great way to end his senior year,” Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said. “He’s wanted to contribute so much. He’s been such a great defensive player for us, and finally he busted open the last game of the year and did a wonderful job getting all those runs in for us and putting the ball in play.”
Kaneland’s entire lineup found its groove at the plate on Saturday. Eight different hitters had at least one hit, and four of them had multiple hits. Joe Camiliere contributed three hits and three runs. Bobby Thorson went 2 for 3 with a run and two RBIs. Jake Razo, the No. 7 hitter, was 2 for 3 with one run and two RBIs.
“Most pitchers think of the bottom of the order that we’re not good hitters or anything,” Razo said. “Me and Brian go in there, we just think we’re the better players on the field than the pitcher, and that’s how we played today.”
Oak Forest’s offense didn’t lack hits. It just couldn’t produce timely ones. The Bengals put together 10 hits and also had two players reach base after being hit by a pitcher, but only had three runs to show for it.
Oak Forest was led by John Zubek (3 for 4, run), Brain Richard (2 for 3), Bobby Sheppard (2 for 4, run) and Jason Hine (1 for 3, two RBIs).
Illinois all-time home run king Tim Barry went 1 for 4 with a RBI. He finished with 12 home runs for the season and 53 for his career at Oak Forest.
Kaneland pitcher Drew Peters (5-1) picked up the win after going four innings, allowing six hits and two earned runs. Kyle Davidson pitched the final three innings for the Knights and allowed four hits and one run.
Lyons tops Providence in 4A
Lyons defeated Providence 8-3 in the Class 4A title game. The Lions (37-4) scored three runs in the first inning and two more in the third to put away Providence (37-4).
Lyons was led by Steve Heilenbach (3 for 4, two runs), Spencer Mahoney (2 for 2, two runs), Brian Rodemoyer (2 for 2, two runs, one RBI) and Connor Cuff (1 for 3, four RBIs).
Cuff also picked up the win, improving to 11-0. He pitched seven innings and allowed five hits and three runs.
Providence’s Sam Travis was 2 for 2 with a double, home run, one run and two RBIs.