Baseball: Scouting the Fox Valley postseason
Class 4A Huntley sectional
Sectional pairings: Wednesday, May 29: DeKalb regional winner vs. McHenry regional winner, 4:30 p.m.; Thursday, May 30: Rockford Guilford regional winner vs. Jacobs regional winner, 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 1: Championship, 10 a.m. Winner moves on to the Rockford 2 supersectional at RiverHawks Stadium on Monday, June 3 vs. St. Charles East sectional winner.
Top four seeds: Hononegah, Cary-Grove, Huntley, Grant
Matchups: Monday: No. 5 Crystal Lake Central at No. 4 Barrington, 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday: No. 1 Cary-Grove vs. Monday winner, 4:15 p.m.; Thursday: No. 2 Crystal Lake South vs. No. 3 Jacobs; Saturday: Championship, 10 a.m.
Outlook: Clearly the toughest regional in the Huntley sectional, this five-team field is deeper than a scuba-diving philosopher. Defending regional champion CL South (20-6) is the co-champion of the ultracompetitive Fox Valley Conference Valley Division. Barrington (20-11) won its division of the Mid-Suburban League and has gone 17-4 since a 3-7 start. Host Jacobs seeks the first regional title in program history after winning 20 games for the first time. No. 1 seed Cary-Grove (19-11) toppled Stevenson 12-0 on Saturday. And No. 5 seed Crystal Lake Central (17-10) has won 8 of 9 entering the postseason. Jacobs, Cary-Grove and CL South split 2-game series against each other during the regular season. Despite 40 wins between them, either Jacobs or CL South will be going home after Thursday's semifinal because the sectional is not seeded from top to bottom. "It's a shame that we have to face each other and (the sectional) is not seeded like the rest of the state," CL South coach Brian Bogda said. "More and more people are starting to see it's unfair. Our regional is stacked. It's going to be tough, a battle, but it's nothing we aren't used to this year in our conference. Whoever wins is going to earn it, that's for sure."
Matchups: Monday: No. 5 Rockford Jefferson vs. No. 4 Larkin, 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday: No. 1 Huntley vs. Monday winner, 4 p.m.; Thursday: No. 2 Dundee-Crown vs. No. 3 DeKalb, 4 p.m.; Saturday: Championship, 2 p.m.
Outlook: The big question entering the postseason is how will Huntley's players respond in the wake of the off-field turmoil that resulted in head coach Andy Jakubowski's season-ending suspension days before the playoffs were set to begin. FVC Valley co-champion Huntley (24-5) won 20 games for the fifth straight season and is the clear favorite, led by Louisville-bound senior Colin Lyman (.421, 15 2B, 23 RBI, 35 runs), Illinois-bound junior Mark Skonieczny (.449, 10 2B, 7 HR, 33 RBI) and Nebraska-bound senior Bryce Only (.379, 11 2B, 6 HR, 28 RBI). The pitching staff is headed by Eric Luecht (7-1, 2.60 ERA), Only (3-4, 3.61) and Tommy Regan (3-0, 1.67, 2 saves). Larkin (10-19) hopes to defeat Jefferson in Monday's play-in game and get a chance to challenge the Red Raiders in a semifinal. "We have to take care of business first to get there," Larkin coach Matt Esterino said. "Huntley is tough. They are one of the better teams in the state and they are well coached. It comes down to us playing our game and playing well. We know if we get there, we'll have to play real well to compete with them. All you can ask for in life is a shot." Dundee-Crown (8-17) spent the season taking its licks in the brutal FVC Valley. Fourth-year D-C catcher Dylan Kissack is hitting .390 with 10 doubles and 10 RBI. "We need to be on top of our game," first-year coach Jon Anderson said. "We need to be playing error-free baseball and doing the little things right that we're supposed to be doing: getting a guy on, getting him over and scoring. For us to be successful, we have to win those 1-run ballgames."
Matchups: Monday: No. 5 Round Lake at No. 4 McHenry, 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday: No. 1 Grant vs. Monday winner, 7 p.m.; Thursday: No. 2 Prairie Ridge vs. No. 3 Grayslake North, 7 p.m.; Saturday: Championship game, 4:30 p.m.
Outlook: Grant returns to the scene of its 2012 sectional title. The Bulldogs could face stiff competition from the start against McHenry (21-14), which swept Huntley last week. The Thursday semifinal pits talented Prairie Ridge (24-12) against FVC Fox Division champion Grayslake North (19-8). The Knights beat Prairie Ridge 13-9 on April 9.
Rockford Guilford regional
Outlook: The Rockford area's five Class 4A high schools play for the right to face the winner of the Jacobs regional. If seeds hold, No. 1 Hononegah would meet No. 2 Boylan in the championship game on Saturday at 10 a.m.
Class 4A St. Charles East sectional
Sectional pairings: Wednesday, May 29: Schaumburg regional winner vs. Geneva regional winner, 4:30 p.m.; Thursday, May 30: Bartlett regional winner vs. Wheaton North regional winner; Saturday, June 1: Championship, 11 a.m. Winner moves on to the Rockford 2 supersectional at RiverHawks Stadium on Monday, June 3 vs. Huntley sectional winner.
Top four seeds: Batavia, Wheaton North, St. Charles East, Lake Park
Matchups: Monday: No. 18 Hoffman Estates at No. 16 Elgin, 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday: No. 2 Batavia vs. Monday winner, 4:30 p.m.; Thursday: No. 7 Bartlett vs. No. 10 St. Charles North; Saturday: Championship, 11 a.m.
Outlook: Upstate Eight co-champion Batavia (25-6) is the favorite, though defending regional champion Bartlett (14-14) might have something to say about it on its home field. Bartlett entered last year's playoffs with an average record, then proceeded to knock off No. 1 seed Geneva en route to a regional title. The Hawks first must defeat St. Charles North (15-16), a team they defeated 13-2 on April 12. Bartlett dropped a 2-1 decision to Batavia in its second game of the season on April 2. The Bartlett pitching staff is led by junior Doug Van Dyke (6-2, 2.70 ERA, 39K, 12 BB, 44 IP) and senior Colin Nowak (2-4, 2.96 ERA, 63 K, 15 BB, 52 IP). Senior Matt Vitulli ranks among the area's top hitters (.494). He has 12 doubles, 28 RBI and has scored 25 runs, all team highs. Other offensive leaders include Sam Franco (.362, 12 RBI) and Ben Havel (.341, 22 RBI). Elgin (7-21) hopes to reach a regional title game for the second straight season, led by junior pitcher Ryan Sitter (2-5, 42 K, 27 BB, 3.99 ERA, 45.2 IP).
Wheaton North regional
Matchups: Monday: No. 19 Streamwood at No. 14 Addison Trail, 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday: No. 3 Wheaton North vs. Monday winner, 4:30 p.m.; Thursday: No. 5 Glenbard North vs. No. 11 South Elgin; Saturday: Championship, 10 a.m.
Outlook: Streamwood (6-24) aims to put a silver lining on a tough season with a play-in victory against the Blazers. A win would advance the Sabres to a semifinal matchup against host Wheaton North (24-7). Streamwood is led offensively by Jeff Weaver, who is hitting .323 (30-for-93) with 4 doubles, 2 triples, 3 home runs and 17 RBI. South Elgin (15-14) hits just .266 as a team but wins with pitching (2.30 ERA) and defense (43 errors). A sectional finalist a year ago, the Storm can compete with any team in their sectional thanks to the veteran arms of Alex Wolfe (3-2, 34 K, 22 BB, 3.21 ERA, 32.2 IP), Joe Crivolio (3-2, 19 K, 14 BB, 1.29 ERA, 38 IP) and David Palmer (1-1, 38 K, 11 BB, 2.16 ERA, 45.1 IP). South Elgin opens with a semifinal test against DuPage Valley Conference member Glenbard North (18-11).
Class 3A Sycamore sectional
Sectional pairings: Wednesday, May 29: Burlington Central regional winner vs. Kaneland regional winner, at Sycamore Park District, 4 p.m.; Thursday, May 30: Rochelle regional winner vs. Belvidere regional winner, 4 p.m.; Saturday, June 1: Championship, 11 a.m.
Top four seeds: St. Francis, Sycamore, Hampshire, Rockford East
Burlington Central regional
Matchups: Monday: No. 5 Wheaton Academy vs. No. 4 Genoa-Kingston, 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday: No. 1 Hampshire vs. Monday winner, 4:30 p.m.; Thursday: No. 2 Burlington Central vs. No. 3 Marengo, 4:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 1: Championship, 11 a.m.
Outlook: Old rivals Hampshire and Burlington Central could meet for a second time this season if this regional plays to seeding. The Whip-Purs beat the Rockets 5-1 on April 22 in Hampshire behind the pitching of Mike Dumoulin. Hampshire, which seeks its third regional title, finished the regular season with a sub-.500, but the Whips played in the Fox Valley Conference, among the toughest leagues in the state. They are led offensively by Tyler Crater (.378, 7 2B, 13 RBI), Piotr Barnas (.352, 7 2B, 19 runs), Brandon Bowen (.380, 16 RBI) and Mike Laramie (.315, 5 2B, 12 RBI). Coach John Sarna has pitching options, including Dumoulin (4-3, 4.49 ERA), Andrew Brown (1-5, 3.18), Crater (1-3, 4.00) and veteran closer Brandon Wescher (2-0, 1.75, 3 saves), among others. "We've been getting outstanding pitching from the likes of Mike Dumoulin, Andrew Brown and Tyler Crater," Sarna said. "Pitching has kept us in our last four ballgames, so we're looking forward to going into the regional with our pitching. If our defense shows up, we could have some success." The Whips average 2.1 errors per game.
Big Northern East champion Burlington Central (14-11) defeated semifinal opponent Marengo (11-7) twice in early April, 12-0 and 19-9, but the Rockets expect a better test from the Indians this time around. "They are a much different team now," Central coach Kyle Nelson said of Marengo. "I watched them beat Kaneland 2-0 the other day, so they're playing much better and we can't take them for granted. You have to win the first win before you can win that second one." Central's top two pitchers are Dan Gerke (4-3, 57 K, 11 BB, 1,55 ERA, 541⁄3 IP) and Alex Bell (3-2, 27 K, 19 BB, 2.45 ERA, 341⁄3 IP). The offense is led by Blake Alexander (.377, 12 2B, 10 RBI), Bryan Cynova (.316, 25 RBI), Mike Lee (.338, 8 2B, 15 RBI), and Cody Schuver (.351, 15 runs).
-- Jerry Fitzpatrick
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