CHAMPAIGN – Neil Hamilton needed a few extra swings in the on-deck circle to get loose before each at-bat Friday. The 32-degree temperature, brisk wind and flurries made it difficult to get warmed up and stay warm. Once he was loose, though, the second baseman was unstoppable at the plate.
Hamilton went 3 for 3 and scored two runs, leading Centennial to a 9-2 victory against Kankakee. Collin DeDecker and designated hitter Dan Plecki also scored two runs for the Chargers. DeDecker was 2 for 4. Plecki went 3 for 4.
"I had a couple small hits," Hamilton said. "I didn't get a good part of the bat on it, but I got kind of lucky. Our hitting really came through. This is the first game where we really hit the ball hard."
Centennial coach Kyle Herges said players like Hamilton and DeDecker can determine the flow of the game.
"They did a good job of being in tune with the game," Herges said.
Both players scored in the bottom of the second, giving the Chargers a 3-1 lead. DeDecker led off with a triple, scoring when Hamilton hit a single in his next at-bat.
Centennial followed its second-inning performance with a huge fourth inning, when the Chargers scored five runs.
The Kays never recovered. The Chargers also played well on defense, repeatedly holding Kankakee's runners at first.
"We know that we have guys that are going to go out there and put the bat on the ball and avoid striking out," Herges said. "They're going to get on base most of the time, and they're going to make it hard for the other team."
Hamilton said getting a hit in his first at-bat helped him get in the game's groove.
"It gives you a lot of confidence when it comes to hitting, and that's the biggest thing," Hamilton said. "If you go up there thinking that you're going to hit the ball hard, that's what you're going to do usually."
The team will attempt to continue its weekend winning streak today when it travels to Mahomet-Seymour for a doubleheader.
Kankakee held the lead when Centennial gave up a run in the first inning. A sense of urgency fell over the team, DeDecker said, but the Chargers didn't let the run get them down. Outfielder Tyler Stefan scored in the bottom of the inning to even the score.
"Right when we got down I thought that this was going to be a good game," DeDecker said. "I thought that if we hit the ball like we did in the first inning and played defense the way that I know we can that we'd come away with a win."
Kankakee scored two runs, one by center fielder Matt Depoister and one by shortstop Nick Hasik, off four hits.
"We just didn't play very well defensively, we lost our heads," Kankakee coach John Wade said. "We used the cold as our excuse."
Throughout the game, Herges challenged his players to ignore the cold and play their game. Pitchers Joel Merchen, who threw five innings, and Aaron VonQualen, who went up 0-1 on each batter he faced, took that message to heart and were instrumental to the team's success, Herges said.
"Everything is still up in the air; they're still fighting each other for playing time," Herges said. "We really had a solid game, especially with the cold."
A-L 11, Sangamon Valley 8. Andy Carver was 2 for 3 with two doubles, two runs and two RBI for host Arthur-Lovington (1-6). Michael Reed homered.
Cerro Gordo 16, Arcola 5. Clay Godier was 2 for 4 with a homer and four RBI for the host Broncos.
In boys' tennis:
Edwardsville 15, Centennial 0. Quinn Miller won his second set at No. 1 singles in a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 loss.