LA GRANGE PARK – Will Kincanon and Jake Bartels grew up playing travel baseball and basketball together.
The two had never faced off against each other until the Class 3A Nazareth sectional semifinal on May 29.
Kincanon took the mound for Riverside Brookfield four days after throwing a no-hitter in the regional final. Bartels pitched for Nazareth in his first playoff appearance this year.
RB took an early lead and chased Bartels from the game after four innings, but Bartels hit a base-clearing double off Kincanon as part of a five-run sixth inning in a 6-3 Nazareth win.
Bartels talked with Kincanon about the game the night before on facebook to see if they would be pitching against each other.
“We were pretty excited about being able to throw against each other,” Bartels said. “We were both on the same team since we were in grade school. This is the first time we’ve thrown against each other so it was a really great experience. I have so much respect for him. He’s a phenomenal kid and a phenomenal pitcher.”
Kincanon didn’t have his best stuff on short rest, but he and the Bulldogs both had remarkable seasons. Kincanon finishes with an 11-1 record with 118 strikeouts in 79 innings. RB also set a school record for wins with 32.
“Obviously the hurt and anguish and disappointment is there, but I’m happy that I had an opportunity to coach this club,” said RB coach Dallas Till. “It’s arguably the best team in RB history.”
Till had no regrets about having Kincanon pitch on short rest.
“He’s the guy who got us here and I was going to ride him,” Till said. “He said he didn’t want to come out so I left him in. We also didn’t make a couple plays behind him. He threw a great game.”
Kincanon will be back next year, but the Bulldogs had a senior-heavy squad that included center fielder C.J. Duffek. Duffek, a Northwest Missouri State signee, hit .470 to lead RB.
“I really thought we had it,” Duffek said. “We just couldn’t hold on. They’re a great ball team and we’re a great team. The ball went their way today.”
Matt Quintana, Luke Keller, Joe Duffy, Angelo Gabino, Kevin Garvey, Alex Nenadovic, Justin Rodriguez, Thomas Leary, Eric Loury and Alex Spirios were also a part of the 11-man senior class.