Baseball: McHenry, Huntley advance in Class 4A Hampshire sectional

McHenry freshman pitcher Kaden Wasniewski has proven to be cool under pressure in his role as Warriors closer all season.

But even as unflappable as the heat-throwing righthander can be, he needed a little encouragement from the bench in the top of the seventh inning against Hampshire.

McHenry’s three-run lead had shrunken to one with help from a couple of fly balls lost in the sun.

“I was just thinking I needed something to pick me up,” Wasniewski said. “I wasn’t feeling the best.”

Warriors coach Brian Rockweiler knew just what to say.

“I told him on the mound visit, ‘It’s not like it’s your first time, you’ve been here all year,’ " Rockweiler said. ”He’s been in some tough spots and gotten out of them. I said, ‘Just another day. We’re going to get out of it and win the game.’ "

Wasniewski struck out two of the last three batters to preserve a 5-4 victory Wednesday in their Class 4A Hampshire Sectional semifinal.

The Warriors (29-7) advance to play Huntley (29-7-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday in the title game.

Huntley defeated Barrington 6-3 in the second semifinal. The Red Raiders jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first two innings and held the Broncos to three hits in the victory. Huntley’s Kyle Larson was 4 for 4 with a double, triple and two RBI.

McHenry received another strong pitching performance from junior Brandon Shannon and led 2-0 in the sixth, but the Whip-Purs (24-11) rallied to tie the score with RBI singles from Jack Perrone and Dom Borecky.

The Warriors answered with three runs with help from the Whips’ only error and a passed ball. The key blow came from McHenry’s Jack Stecker, who ripped a two-RBI single up the middle off Anthony Karbowski, who was on in relief of Jack Schane.

It was the only ball Stecker put in play in four at-bats, he struck out twice and walked.

“I was struggling at the plate earlier in the day,” Stecker said. “I knew they were going to attack me with the fastball and try and get out of it. I was ecstatic. I love playing here. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my life and I get a few more days with my guys. That’s the best.”

Hampshire was not done. Right fielder Kadin Borck, who had just entered the game, struggled with the sun on two fly balls and the Whips eventually scored twice. Wasniewski got Karbowski on a called third, then struck out Borecky to end the game.

“That’s probably the most fun game I’ve ever been in,” Wasniewski said.

Hampshire won a regional with a junior-heavy team, but Whips coach Frank Simoncelli hoped they could make more noise in this postseason.

“I told them I was proud of them, they battled every pitch,” Simoncelli said. “They didn’t feel sorry for themselves after that inning. It could have just ended 5-2. We took advantage of some of their mistakes. I wish we could have scored a couple more.”

Huntley jumped out early on Barrington (22-14-1) with an error and four consecutive singles. AJ Putty, Larson and Quinn Drews all had RBI singles in the first. Larson drove in another run in the second for a 4-0 lead.

Sophomore Drew Borkowski held the Broncos hitless through three innings, but encountered trouble with a hit, a hit by pitch and a walk in the fourth. Mason Leske relieved, but struggled with the zone and issued two bases-loaded walks.

Sophomore Josh Rudnick came in with the bases loaded and one out and prevented further damage. Raiders coach Andy Jakubowski thought the game’s key play was when Rudnick covered home as Drews, at catcher, grabbed a dribbler in front of the plate and flipped to Rudnick for the second out.

“I was going to get the ball, but I saw Quinn got it and bases were loaded, so I got the ball and stepped on home,” Rudnick said. “I’ve been in that situation before against Hampshire. My defense is really good behind me, I trust the defense.”

Rudnick threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings before Malachi Paplanus came on to close in the seventh.

“Both of our sophomores threw well. Drew had a few runners on base and I thought we’d go a little bit different,” Jakubowski said. “Mason struggled throwing strikes and Josh did a great job getting out of the inning.”

Larson tripled in the fifth and scored on Drews’ ground ball. The Raiders added another run with three pinch hitters in the sixth as Jason Wolter singled, went first to third on Dylan Visvadra’s sacrifice bunt and then scored and Alex Behles’ single.

Larson said he had been in a bit of a slump, but he hit everything squarely on Wednesday.

“It was good to get out here and swing hard,” Larson said. “I put a lot of work in the last couple weeks. Got a couple fastballs and didn’t miss them.

“We’ve always stuck with jumping on them right away and scoring first. I kind of bring that on my own approach, jumping on that first fastball. The more strikes you get, the more chances you have of striking out. I guess I didn’t miss them.”

Patrick Kunzer for Shaw LocalBarrington’s Will Nazha delivers against Huntley in sectional semifinal baseball action at Hampshire Wednesday. Patrick Kunzer for Shaw Local
Hampshire's Jack Perrone takes out McHenry's Ryan Nagel as he slides into third base during a Class 4A Hampshire sectional baseball game on Wednesday, May 29, 2024, at the Hampshire High School. Gregory Shaver
Hampshire's Charles Wiggins comforts his teammate, Hampshire's Dominic Borecky after McHenry defeated Hampshire 5-4 in a Class 4A Hampshire sectional baseball game on Wednesday, May 29, 2024, at the Hampshire High School. Gregory Shaver
Hampshire's Jack Schane throws a pitch during a Class 4A Hampshire sectional baseball game against McHenry on Wednesday, May 29, 2024, at the Hampshire High School. Gregory Shaver
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