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Sports

Prep baseball: Sycamore's Gage Armstrong develops into reliable bat

Sycamore juniors Kevin Rink (left) and Gage Armstrong react after the Spartans score the first run of the game against DeKalb Monday at Ralph Mckenzie Field on the Campus of Northern Illinois University.
Mark Busch - mbusch@shawmedia.com
Sycamore juniors Kevin Rink (left) and Gage Armstrong react after the Spartans score the first run of the game against DeKalb Monday at Ralph Mckenzie Field on the Campus of Northern Illinois University. Mark Busch - mbusch@shawmedia.com

SYCAMORE – When Sycamore baseball coach Jason Cavanaugh decided Gage Armstrong wouldn’t start at catcher this past season, Armstrong thought twice about it. 

After initially disagreeing with Cavanaugh’s decision to roll with then-fellow junior Matt Cusamano for a majority of the season at catcher, Armstrong redirected his focus toward the team. He wanted to do anything to help the team and proved to be a reliable offensive threat as Sycamore’s designated hitter.

“I was a little upset about (not catching) at first,” Armstrong said. “But there’s no hard feelings behind that. I realized I had to do my role on the team. My role was to go and hit for the guys.” 

Armstrong ended up being one of Sycamore’s best hitters in 2018. He hit .310 with 10 extra-base hits and 23 runs scored. His three home runs ranked second in the area behind Kaneland’s Luke Gomes (four). 

The 2018 Daily Chronicle All-Area First Team selection said his power comes from being a multisport athlete. Last year, Armstrong started at center for the Spartans football team, while also playing linebacker. 

“I get all different types of muscles going in football and baseball,” he said. “Because I’m working out different parts of my body in both sports, I get a lot of that explosive power.”

This summer, Armstrong already has doubled his home run total from the spring. Between Sycamore’s summer exhibitions and his games with Scorpions Baseball – a local summer club team – Armstrong has crushed six homers over the past month and a half. He’s hitting .375 with 15 RBIs for the Scorpions.

His most recent home run came Friday during a Scorpions game at Northern Illinois University’s Ralph McKenzie Field. Armstrong hit a grand slam 400-plus feet over the right-center field fence. The Scorpions lost, 14-6, but Armstrong’s performance had Scorpions coach Dedric Wright beaming – Armstrong drove in all six of his team’s runs and hit a combined 7 for 11 over the weekend.

“The kid can flat out hit,” Wright said. “Whenever he gets up to the plate with guys on, he can definitely be a game changer. His approach at the plate is that good.”

Wright, who resigned as DeKalb’s head coach this spring after two seasons, said he believes Armstrong will be a catcher at the next level. Armstrong said he’s received interest from several college programs and has aspirations to reach the Division I level.

“I wish he was a kid I could’ve coached at DeKalb,” Wright said. “He brings a lot to the table in terms of maturity level. He’s a bit of a goofball, but he stays locked in. Coaching against him, I knew I did not want to throw him the fastball.

“Now that he’s on my team – you tell kids all the time to attack the fastball – you don’t have to tell Gage that. He’s going up there looking for something to drive. If he gets anything in the zone, he’s going to crush it.”

Armstrong has been the featured catcher for the Scorpions this summer, but things again will be different for him next spring at Sycamore. With Cusumano set up for another season behind the plate, Cavanaugh has shifted Armstrong from DH to first base for the Spartans. 

“It’s been a pretty easy transition,” Armstrong said. “I used to play first base before I played a catcher. I played (first base) a lot freshman year, took two years off being a catcher and DH, and now I’m right back into it. I’ve shifted all my focus to baseball.”

Similar to his adjustment to DH, Armstrong’s transition back to first base is another opportunity he’s ready to make the most of.

“I’m a really competitive person, and I love winning,” he said. “Winning is everything to me. I’m putting in a ton of work. I feel like I’m a leader on the team.”

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