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updated: 5/28/2014 10:30 PM

Defensive gems pave way for Huntley win

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  • Huntley catcher Mark Skonieczny, left, pitcher Eric Luecht, center, and Johnny Nugent celebrate their win over Larkin in the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday.

       Huntley catcher Mark Skonieczny, left, pitcher Eric Luecht, center, and Johnny Nugent celebrate their win over Larkin in the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Huntley's Johnny Nugent, left, and Adam Kalish, right, celebrate with Mark Skonieczny after the Red Raiders score in the fifth inning of the Class 4A regional semifinals vs. Larkin at DeKalb High School on Wednesday.

       Huntley's Johnny Nugent, left, and Adam Kalish, right, celebrate with Mark Skonieczny after the Red Raiders score in the fifth inning of the Class 4A regional semifinals vs. Larkin at DeKalb High School on Wednesday.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Left to right, Huntley's Mark Skonieczny, Eric Luecht (23), Dillion DellAquila (17), Johnny Nugent, Brandon Altergott and Anastasios Kiriakopoulos celebrate their win over Larkin in the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday, May 28.

       Left to right, Huntley's Mark Skonieczny, Eric Luecht (23), Dillion DellAquila (17), Johnny Nugent, Brandon Altergott and Anastasios Kiriakopoulos celebrate their win over Larkin in the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday, May 28.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Larkin's Jonathan Avila, left, and Huntley's Matt Sullivan slide towards each other resulting in Avila being tagged out as he scrambles back to second base in the fifth inning of the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday, May 28.

       Larkin's Jonathan Avila, left, and Huntley's Matt Sullivan slide towards each other resulting in Avila being tagged out as he scrambles back to second base in the fifth inning of the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday, May 28.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • As the umpire walks by, Larkin's Jonathan Avila reacts to being called out at second base by a tag by Huntley's Matt Sullivan in the fifth inning of the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday, May 28.

       As the umpire walks by, Larkin's Jonathan Avila reacts to being called out at second base by a tag by Huntley's Matt Sullivan in the fifth inning of the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday, May 28.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Larkin's Jonathan Avila, left, and Huntley's Matt Sullivan slide towards each other with Avila being tagged out as he scrambles back to second base in the with inning of the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday, May 28.

       Larkin's Jonathan Avila, left, and Huntley's Matt Sullivan slide towards each other with Avila being tagged out as he scrambles back to second base in the with inning of the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday, May 28.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Larkin's Huntley's Dillon DellAquila tastes some dirt as he slides safely back to first base in the fifth inning of the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday, May 28. Minutes later he would score a run for the Red Raiders.

       Larkin's Huntley's Dillon DellAquila tastes some dirt as he slides safely back to first base in the fifth inning of the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday, May 28. Minutes later he would score a run for the Red Raiders.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Huntley's Mark Skonieczny leads off first base away from Larkin's Brayden Royse in the fourth inning of the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday, May 28.

       Huntley's Mark Skonieczny leads off first base away from Larkin's Brayden Royse in the fourth inning of the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday, May 28.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Larkin's Robert Bond, right, puts a comforting hand on the shoulder of shortstop Jon Lenz as they return to the dugout after Huntley scored four  runs in fifth inning of the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday, May 28.

       Larkin's Robert Bond, right, puts a comforting hand on the shoulder of shortstop Jon Lenz as they return to the dugout after Huntley scored four runs in fifth inning of the Class 4A regional semifinals at DeKalb High School on Wednesday, May 28.
    Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

 
 

DeKALB -- If stars were placed next to the names of the Huntley fielders who made great plays in Wednesday's 4-0 playoff win over Larkin, the score book would have looked like a chart of the galaxy by game's end.

Huntley defenders made the routine plays, the smart plays and the stellar plays in support of senior right-hander Eric Luecht (7-2). He limited the fourth-seeded Royals (15-20) to 3 hits and 4 walks and struck out 5 in an 85-pitch performance to outduel Larkin senior Jack McCracken (7-3).

"We threw the leather and Eric did a nice job of pounding the strike zone," Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said. "Everything we preach, we did it on the defensive end."

No. 1 Huntley (25-7-1) advances to the regional final against the winner of today's semifinal between No. 2 Dundee-Crown and No. 3 DeKalb on Saturday at 10 a.m.

The Huntley universe was littered with defensive stars against the Royals:

• First baseman Tommy Kiriakopoulos ended Larkin's second inning by smothering a Jonathan Avila groundball with a runner at second base. He also saved a third-inning error by scooping a low throw.

• Right fielder Trevor Symbal made a sliding catch with a runner on second to end the third inning.

• Third baseman Jon Nugent made three tough plays on balls he had to charge before throwing off-balance to first.

• Left fielder Dillon Dell'Aquila laid out for a diving catch to rob McCracken to open the seventh inning.

• And Huntley catcher Mark Skonieczny picked off two baserunners. He nabbed a runner at first base in the first inning on a disputed call. In the fifth inning he negated a Larkin scoring opportunity by picking off a runner who led off with a double, keeping the game scoreless at the time.

"Mark will sense it three pitches before he does it," Luecht said of the pickoff play."

"I saw he got a large lead off second base the pitch before that, so I signaled to (shortstop Matt) Sullivan," said Skonieczny, a future catcher for the Fighting Illini. "We usually have a little hand shake or a touch of the mask. He was off the base again, far. So I did my best to throw it down in the right spot and luckily we got an out there."

Larkin's defense blinked in the bottom of the fifth inning when 2 errors at shortstop sandwiched a walk drawn by Nugent in the nine hole.

That set the stage for Chicago State-bound senior Matt Sullivan, who entered the contest leading Huntley with a .444 batting average. Throughout the game McCracken had started Huntley's hitters with off-speed pitches to great effect, but Sullivan guessed right on the first pitch of his third at-bat and inside-outed a 3-run triple to the right-field corner.

"I got two change-ups on the first pitch of my first two at-bats, so I figured in my third at-bat he wasn't going to throw it to me because I was on the first one," Sullivan said. "I figured he's not going to throw a fastball, so he'd probably throw a curveball. I got it and I went with it."

Skonieczny followed with a sacrifice fly to right field for his area-best 32nd RBI, scoring Sullivan with his area-best 40th run.

It was a hard-luck defeat for McCracken, who lost to the Red Raiders in a regional semifinal for the second year in a row, though he did not allow an earned run. The right-hander held Huntley to 4 hits and a walk in 6 innings and struck out 5.

"A couple of bad hops in that (fifth) inning or we're right there," McCracken said. 'We outhit them, but they got a couple of bad hops and had one good, timely hit and that was the difference."

The loss meant the end of high school baseball for six Larkin seniors: McCracken, pitcher/first baseman Brayden Royse, left fielder Rob Bond, infielder Cam Powers, center fielder Tyler Kalusa and catcher John Jowaski.

"I've never been complimented more on a team I've coached, whether it's fans or other coaches saying they play the right way," Larkin coach Matt Esterino said. "These six seniors were a huge part of that and their leadership will definitely missed."

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