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Daily Journal
     May 10, 2022      #74-130 KDJ
 

Kankakee wins first All-City title in 20

By Cody Smith
csmith@daily-journal.com


KANKAKEE — Last season, Kankakee suffered a dramatic 4-3 extra-inning loss to Bradley-Bourbonnais in walk-off fashion, which left many of its players savoring the opportunity to seek revenge.

Fast forward one year and the Kays managed to avenge their heartbreaking loss to the Boilermakers by securing a 7-1 victory in the rivalry rematch at home during senior night Monday to help Kankakee claim its first All-City championship since 2002.

“It feels great to beat Bradley-Bourbonnais, and [I] don’t know [if] I have ever wanted something so bad for this group of seniors,” Kankakee head coach Tony Sykes said. “I played at Kankakee, and so I told my guys today that this win was for everyone who wanted to and couldn’t beat Bradley-Bourbonnais.

“Now, everyone knows that we can, and so it’s a great feeling.”

Given the Kays had this game circled on their calendar before the start of the season, there was never a doubt they would come out motivated, and it showed early in the first inning, when they jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

After forcing a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the first on the mound as Kankakee’s starting pitcher, senior Camden Kearney helped himself out by putting the Kays on the scoreboard in the opening frame with a three-run bomb to centerfield.

“I saw the pitch and I stayed through the ball like I’ve been working on with Coach and drove it the opposite way,” Kearney said of his home run. “I didn’t know it was gone when it hit my bat because I was in a full sprint out of the box, and the next thing you know I was rounding second base and I saw the umpire circling his hands for a home run.”

Bradley-Bourbonnais did its best to counter the three-run burst by the Kays when Brock Spaulding barreled a leadoff triple in the second inning, a play Spaulding scored on because of a throwing error by the Kays as they tried to throw out Spaulding at third.

Vernon Malone and Chase Longtin got on base in back-to-back plate appearances, putting runners on first and second with no outs. However, Kearney recovered with three straight strikeouts to limit the damage.

“After I gave up that triple, I was just thinking to stay calm and composed,” Kearney said. “And then, when I walked the next two batters, I just thought the same thing, and I stood behind the mound and took a deep breath and fired strikes like I knew that I could.”

The potential big second inning by the road squad was about as close as the Boilermakers were to making a possible comeback as they totaled just two more hits the rest of the way, thanks to Kearney and relief pitcher Jairus Harris’ performances on the mound.

Kearney claimed the victory for the Kays after surrendering just three hits and one earned given up with nine strikeouts as Harris tossed 2 1/3 innings, giving up zero hits and zero runs with five strikeouts.

“Jairus Harris has done that all season,” Sykes said “That’s our tandem [Kearney and Harris], and, again, I’m happy for Harris — as a senior — to come in and do what’s expected of him.”

Kankakee added three more runs in the second inning thanks to an RBI sacrifice fly out by Jaeden Harris and a two-RBI double by Kearney before adding its final run in the fifth off another sacrifice fly by Jacob Zubrys.

The six-run victory against its rival in front of a huge home crowd to help take this year’s All-City crown is something the Kankakee players never will forget.

“I love it,” Kearney said. “This is the greatest feeling in the world right now, and I don’t know anything that could top it right now.”

Kankakee’s victory against the Boilermakers improves the squad to 17-2-1, and the loss puts BBCHS at 7-18 overall.

“We just have to keep playing through this,” Bradley-Bourbonnais head coach Brad Schweigert said. “It’s been a slow year for us, and we’ve had more losses under our belts than what you would want in a season, and it showed.

“We just have to compete with confidence, which is something we are lacking right now.”

STAT BOOK

Kearney went 2-for-3 with a team-high five RBIs to lead the Kays at the plate. Jaeden Harris and Zubrys had a single and an RBI each. Ty Harrison contributed a single and a run scored.

Spaulding recorded a triple and a run scored to lead the Boilermakers. Max Mallindine and Thomas Offill chipped in one single each.

UP NEXT

Kankakee (17-2-1) will host Central at 4:30 p.m. today. Bradley-Bourbonnais (7-18) will travel to Andrew for a Southwest Suburban Conference game against the Thunderbolts at the same time.

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