Prairie Ridge pitcher Ben Cilano didn't give Huntley many scoring opportunities in Wednesday's 5-1 victory in a Class 4A McHenry sectional semifinal.
The 6-foot-2 right-hander found himself in deep trouble only once. Leading 5-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Red Raiders loaded the bases via a pair of two-out walks and an error by the Prairie Ridge shortstop. Shortstop Matt Sullivan then drew a walk to trim the deficit to 5-1.
Up next was Huntley catcher Mark Skonieczny, who leads the area with 33 RBI. Cilano fell behind in the count 3-1, but his next pitch was a fastball that tailed in on Skonieczny just enough to coax a flyball to center field to end the threat.
"You've got to respect a hitter like that," said Cilano, who improved to 5-0. "He's a phenomenal hitter, going to Illinois. Like anybody, you've just got to challenge him."
"You've got to give it up for Cilano. He pitched great," Skonieczny said. "I wish I could have that at-bat back, but things are different. There are plenty of things I think we could have changed during the game."
Prairie Ridge advances to Saturday's 11 a.m. sectional final against defending sectional champion Jacobs (24-13), which defeated Hononegah 7-1 in Wednesday's second semifinal.
Cilano held Huntley (26-8-1) to an unearned run on 2 hits as he danced around 5 walks. He struck out 4 in a 103-pitch outing before he was relieved with two away in the sixth inning.
"He moved the ball in and out," Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said. "I actually thought we had quality at-bats against him. We put the ball in play and we hit the ball on the screws at times. They made plays behind him and pitched a great ballgame. Obviously, his pitch count got up and he got a little wild. We just weren't able to get that big hit."
Prairie Ridge broke up a scoreless game with 2 runs in the fourth inning on 3 hits against Huntley starting pitcher Eric Luecht (7-3), but they broke it open with a 3-run fifth, helped greatly by a Huntley throwing error by relief pitcher Adam Kalish, who pitched the last 3 innings. Three of the Wolves' 5 runs were unearned.
It was a tough loss to accept for a successful Huntley senior class. The seniors graduate with consecutive conference championships, a trip to the summer state finals and a regional title to their credit.
"The seniors this year are leaving a legacy for the juniors," Skonieczny said. "Hopefully, they can come back harder next year and win us a regional and a sectional."
"It's something our younger group is going to have to match up to and, hopefully, exceed down the road," Jakubowski said.