Touching All the Bases: And just like that, the season is over.
The Knights of Kaneland defeated Oak Forest 11-3 in the Class 3A state championship game Saturday at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
Though junior ace Kyle Funkhouser wasn’t available because he pitched a complete game in the Bengals were confident with junior starting pitcher Kyle Linares on the mound. Linares already had won three postseason games.
After giving up one run in the bottom of the first inning, Oak Forest stayed neck-and-neck with the Knights through the first three frames. The Bengals grabbed the momentum and the lead in the bottom of the third inning.
Senior shortstop Bobby Sheppard led off the third with a single, and second baseman George Jester reached when he was hit by a pitch. Designated hitter Jason Hine came up in the clutch, battling Kaneland pitcher Drew Peters to a 3-2 count and fouling off numerous pitches. Then, Hine blasted a two-run single and Oak Forest led 2-1.
The Knights, however, battled back in the bottom of the fourth, plating two runs. Right fielder Jake Razo had an RBI single, followed by an RBI double from second baseman Brian Dixon, and Kaneland led 3-2.
Kaneland blew the game open in the fifth, scoring six runs, thanks largely to a streak of three straight RBI doubles.
Oak Forest battled to the end as Tim Barry delivered an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh. But Kaneland turned back the Bengals after that and emerged as the Class 3A baseball champion.
Patch’s MVP: Kaneland second baseman Brian Dixon (3-for-4, 4 RBIs).
Oak Forest’s Leaders: Sophomore Jason Hine (1-for-3, 2 RBIs), senior left fielder Tim Barry (1-for-4, 1 RBI), senior shortstop Bobby Sheppard (2-for-4, 1 run scored).
Kaneland’s Leaders: In addition to Dixon, right fielder Jake Razo (2-for-3, 2 RBIs), third baseman Bobby Thorson (2-for-3, 2 RBIs).
Quotable: Bobby Sheppard on the Bengals’ second-place finish: “If you can win first, you want to win first. But this has been an amazing year. This team has just come so far. I wouldn’t trade it. I love this team.”
Team Records: Oak Forest finished the year with a 27-8-1 record. Kaneland finished 26-10.