Pitching depth keys Kaneland’s runKaneland's Kyle Davidson delivers a pitch against Marian Central. | Brian Valentin~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 8, 2011 7:36PM
The way the Illinois High School Association sets up its postseason schedule, it’s impossible for baseball programs to ride just one pitcher to the state finals. It’s very hard to do with two. Ideally, a team can trot out three quality starters and then have a reliever it trusts in reserve.
That’s hard to find at this level of the game, let alone when injuries begin to take a toll.
Kaneland, which is playing for its first baseball championship this weekend at Silver Cross Field in Joliet, managed to overcome those injuries and develop three strong starters capable of throwing complete games — or coming in to close on short rest.
Now, the Knights are in position to claim The Beacon-News coverage area’s first state baseball trophy since Waubonsie Valley finished second in Class AA in 1996.
Early on however, there was doubt as to whether the Knights would have such depth, especially after senior Sam Komel suffered an arm injury that took him out of the lineup completely for several weeks. Then, senior Drew French’s arm grew tired, forcing him out of the regular rotation.
Komel’s injury moved 2010 closer Kyle Davidson into the starting rotation, and he responded with a 5-0 record and a quality start in the sectional semifinal against Marian Central Catholic.
Davidson then returned to the bullpen to finish off Peoria Notre Dame in the supersectional in relief of junior Drew Peters, who closed out both Rochelle Sectional games.
“They slid into their roles nicely and everyone understands what they need to do to make us successful,” Knights coach Brian Aversa said.
Despite the injuries to key seniors, Peters said the team never lacked confidence in those with less experience.
“We knew this was going to be the year,” he said. “We lost Sam this year, which was huge, but Kyle stepped up. He was a great reliever the whole year (last year) and he stepped up into a starting spot and then I came in.”
Anchoring it all is senior ace Bobby Thorson, who was on the mound when the Knights won the program’s first regional title and then bested Marmion Academy in the sectional final.
If a team can make it through the regional, sectional and supersectional grind, the reward is a few days off before the state finals.
Should Thorson pitch Friday, he will be working on five days of rest. Davidson hasn’t started since last week. Peters will likely be back in the bullpen after throwing around 80 pitches on Monday against Peoria Notre Dame.
“It’ll do wonders for us. We’ll be fully ready to go,” Thorson said of the days off. “Everyone will have full energy and we’ll be able to put our best team on the field and we should be able to compete.
“We’ve got a special team. Pitching depth is huge. We’ve played some real good competition so it’s been key in being successful.”