Baseball: Hughes pitches York past St. Charles North and into another supersectional

It is no secret that York’s baseball team possesses one of the state’s best pitchers in Ryan Sloan, who could be a first-round draft pick in July’s MLB First-Year Player Draft.

Senior left-hander Noah Hughes continues to prove he’s no slouch, either.

Hughes improved his record to 8-1 by tossing 6 scoreless innings on 5 hits, while classmate Chris Danko recorded the final 3 outs in the seventh for the save during the Dukes’ 2-0 Class 4A sectional championship triumph over top-seeded St. Charles North (28-6) Friday afternoon in St. Charles.

“Noah has been a stud for us all year,” said York coach Dave Kalal, whose team captured its third consecutive 4A sectional title and earned a trip to Monday’s 6 p.m. supersectional against either Huntley or McHenry at Northwestern Medicine Field in Geneva.

“He’s 8-1 and his ERA is under 1.00,” Kalal said of Hughes, who struck out 6 while not yielding a walk. “He plays first, he plays outfield, he pitches — he’s a stud athlete.”

Hughes relied exclusively on fastballs and breaking balls to limit a potent North Stars’ lineup.

“I felt like I was hitting the outside corner and hitting my spots,” said Hughes. “I had some good sequences with Coach (River) Pitlock. He should get a lot of credit. He helped me keep them off-balance the whole time.”

The Dukes (30-9) grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second. After a one-out double by Noah Jones, Austin Grzywa reached on a two-out infield single before a wild pitch resulted in York’s first run.

Senior Luke Holtz pitched out of bases-loaded jams in the second and third innings, as the Dukes stranded 8 runners through the first 3 frames.

“We left a lot of guys on base (11 total), but we’ve got a ton of faith in our arms, and we’ve got a ton of faith in our defense,” said Kalal.

“We always say — with the pitching we have, we’ve just got to scratch across a couple runs and we should be good.”

The North Stars had a pair of two-out scoring opportunities during the middle innings.

In the fourth, Parker Reinke slashed a one-out double down the right-field line, and Mason Netcel was hit by a pitch before Hughes escaped the jam on a groundout.

An inning later, two-out singles from Mike Buono and Ty Heimbuch put runners on first and second, but center fielder Danko made a running catch of a line drive off the bat of Colin Ryder to keep the shutout intact.

“Colin squared that ball up well,” said North Stars coach Todd Genke. “I thought it was at least going to be off the fence, but he (Danko) went and got it.”

Nick Allen’s sacrifice fly in the seventh provided some insurance for the Dukes, and Allen returned to make a nice play on a high infield chopper to begin the bottom half of the frame.

“It was a happen in the moment kind of play,” said Danko. “Being a center fielder, I always want priority over the ball, but when I heard Nick (Allen), I backed off a little bit.”

Following Jackson Spring’s two-out single, Danko sealed the outcome on a fly ball to newly inserted center fielder Hughes.

“Three sectional championships — it’s so difficult, especially in our sectional,” said Kalal. “It really is fun.”

Spring had 2 of North’s 6 hits.

“It’s the first time we got shut out all year,” said Genke. “I’m incredibly proud of my 16 seniors that have left their mark on the program. I can’t thank them enough. It just wasn’t meant to be today.”

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