Baseball: Huntley turns to pitching, defense to beat Barrington

The offensive identity of Huntley’s baseball team, after graduating several of its biggest thumpers from last season, remains a work in progress.

Until then, the Red Raiders have settled on the tried-and-true theory that the other team can’t win if it doesn’t score.

That approach served Huntley well again Saturday. Mason Leske, Josh Rudnick and Malachi Paplanus were backed by flawless defense, and the Raiders defeated Barrington 4-0 in a nonconference game at Kirby Smith Field.

“We pitch it well, and we pick it well,” Raiders coach Andy Jakubowski said. “That’s what our M.O. is. We’re figuring our offensive approach, but we feel real confident in the eight or nine guys that we’ve thrown out there this year, as well as our defense. It always keeps us in ballgames, and we find ways to score runs.”

Huntley (6-0) has allowed only six runs in six games. Saturday’s result was the Raiders’ third shutout.

“Our guys just battle on the mound,” Raiders shortstop Griffin Goldstein said. “We have a good group of guys in the field, and I know they can make their plays and work our butts off.”

Leske threw four innings and worked his way out of trouble in the third and fourth. He walked two batters in the third, then Goldstein saved a run going into the hole on Noah Rasmussen’s ground ball that loaded the bases with two outs. Leske then retired Dillon Fitzpatrick on a fly ball to left field.

The Broncos (5-2-1) got a leadoff triple from Julian Ashley-Friedman in the fourth, but Leske left him there with a strikeout, a line out to first base and a ground ball to second base.

“I just had to stay within myself and trust my mechanics, trust my coaches with what they were calling and not let my emotions take over,” Leske said. “We have a lot of pitching and defense. We were pretty much ready for that, more of a pitching and defense team. We may not score 10 runs every game like we did with the Bakes (brothers).”

Ryan Bakes (South Carolina), Brayden Bakes (Indiana) and Ryan Quinlan (Eastern Illinois) were some of the Raiders’ biggest hitters who graduated from last year’s team.

Barrington coach Pat Wire thought those two innings decided the game.

“That was the surprising part in the game – all of a sudden there was a lack of command, and then they would regain that command,” Wire said. “We had the outer-half ball we could have taken the other way, and instead we got a little frozen and took pitches.”

Barrington starter Will Nazha struck out five and allowed one earned run through four innings, but two crucial Broncos’ errors, with two outs, let in two runs in the fourth.

“(Nazha) threw well to put us in the game, but we didn’t execute,” Wire said. “The fact that we had two errors put us behind, and you can’t give a team like that those freebies or you’re done. Usually we’re on the receiving end of that, it just wasn’t that today.”

Huntley’s Kyle Larson added an RBI single in the seventh to make it 4-0. Rudnick struck out two batters in the fifth, and Paplanus finished the game.

“Mason did a really good job of pitching backward, changing speeds, his changeup was on point today,” Jakubowski said. “He only went two innings against St. Charles East last week, so it was a good bounce-back. He kept hitters out on their front foot, and we got a flare, a strikeout and get out of the inning.”

Wire liked having a matchup of two teams that often find their way into the Class 4A sectional tournament.

“Win, lose, whatever, it’s a good measuring stick for where you’re at,” Wire said. “It had a playoff feel. My goodness, I was surprised by the number of people. It speaks volumes for the programs that it has that kind of draw.”

Patrick Kunzer for Shaw LocalBarrington’s Will Nazha makes an offering against Huntley in varsity baseball at Barrington Saturday. Patrick Kunzer for the Daily Herald
Patrick Kunzer for Shaw LocalHuntley battery mates Mason Leske, left, and Quinn Drews celebrate getting a third out in varsity baseball at Barrington Saturday. Patrick Kunzer for the Daily Herald
Patrick Kunzer for Shaw LocalBarrington’s Michael Audino, left, prepares to apply a tag as Huntley’s Haiden Janke arrives safely at third base in varsity baseball at Barrington Saturday. Patrick Kunzer for the Daily Herald
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