Local sports year comes to a close

Andy Colbert

With Byron’s 13-3 super-sectional loss in baseball to DePaul College Prep, yes, the same school that played the Byron girls at the basketball super-sectional, the local high school sports year comes to an end.

In baseball, IHSA stipulates that a pitch-count rule be in effect so that pitchers aren’t overused. That hampered the Tigers and one could question why it exists in the first place.

Dale Hartman has been coaching for decades and certainly should be trusted to properly utilize his pitchers. Are concerned veterans like Hartman penalized because of previous abuses by overzealous coaches?

For sure, society as a whole has taking cumbersome actions in the name of safety. I question the need for many of these measures, as most only serve to increase fear levels.

Perhaps a future column will address that, but it will have to wait until at least this fall. Once the school year is over, this column goes on hibernation for the summer.

Thanks to Editor Jeff Helfrich at the Ogle County Life for asking me to jump on board midway through the year; and as always, special acknowledgment to my other boss, Earleen Hinton at Sauk Valley Media for another year of working together.

This is a labor of love, but I would not do it without people like Jeff and Earleen. They are two of the best in the business and though newspapers are fighting to stay afloat, they continue to give it their all.

Getting back to baseball, Byron finished 26-8 and had a dominant win over Rockford Christian in the sectional final, besides the regional final pitchers’ duel over North Boone with Braden Smith and Chandler Alderman on the mound.

In a balanced BNC, Dixon was first at 16-2, followed by RC (13-3), Byron (12-5), NB (11-7), Stillman Valley (10-8) and Rock Falls (9-9).

In softball, Orangeville had Forreston’s number, winning twice, including a 9-1 sectional final win. None-the-less, the Cardinals finished with a perfect conference slate and 21-6 overall.

Like others at the state track & field meet, it was a stunner for me seeing Forreston-Polo pull off the win in the 400-meter relay. Compared to F-P state relay finalists in the past, this was somewhat of a no-name group.

But man, did they ever perform at the highest level on the biggest stage. These kids were cool as cucumbers in beating a “Who’s Who” of 1A sprint powers.

Bear in the mind, F-P is no slouch, as they’ve made quite an impression over the years downstate, with four straight top-10 finishes in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021. In that time frame, Mason Wright (triple jump) and AJ Christensen (hurdles) won individual titles.

However, the relays could never break over the barrier as best in the state until now. Congratulations to not only the boys’ team, but the F-P girls, who led the way among Ogle County schools downstate as well.

I help officiate the pole vault and had the chance to see the best prospect this state has ever had in freshman Isaiah Whitaker. The Bloomington Central Catholic athlete, who is also on the baseball team, broke the 1A record with a vault of 16-feet-9.

That would have won 3A by well over a foot and 2A by a half a foot. He took up the sport as a fifth grader and won the junior-high state meet with a 10-foot effort. So, the kid’s a natural and his next target is the all-time state record of 17-6.

A couple week ago, George Howe had an informative article on the shortage of high-school sports officials. One aspect of it was the IHSA’s effort to educate and encourage fans to exercise sportsmanship.

While that is noble, it is as futile as former First Lady Nancy Reagan’s slogan of “Just Say No” to drugs.

It doesn’t work. For sports fans to become civil, there must be a complete change of heart.

Intellectually, fans realize sportsmanship is a good thing. However, emotions will overrule intellect without that spiritual change of heart and the end result is continued abuse of officials.

That’s all for now and we’ll see you in late August, unless there is breaking news along the way this summer.

Andy Colbert is a longtime Ogle County resident with years of experience covering sports and more for multiple area publications.