By Marty Maciaszek
Hersey (24-8) at Fremd (18-15)
When: 4:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Fremd High School
Coaches: Hersey: Bob Huber (18th year, 368-262); Fremd: Chris Piggott (187-139, 10th year)
Probable starting pitchers: Hersey senior RHP Trevor Haas (4-2, 2.25 ERA, 56 IP, 49 Ks, 7 BBs); Fremd senior RHP Jack Andersen (7-2, 1.91 ERA, 582⁄3 IP, 60 Ks, 20 BBs).
Hersey on offense: James Ioratti (Sr. 3B, .353, 10 RBI), Trevor Haas (Sr. P-OF, .352, 8 2B, 18 RBI), Tyler Perkowitz (Sr. SS, .343, 8 2B, 17 RBI, 20 SB), Nick Nolan (Sr. OF, .305, 14 RBI), Sean Reszotko (Sr. C, .292, 15 RBI), David Milligan (Jr. 2B, .288), Erik Stoltzner (Sr. OF, 16 RBI), Josh Koutnik (Sr. 1B, 12 RBI).
Fremd on offense: Keith Browning (Sr. OF, .336, 12 2B, 14 RBI, 13 SB), Jack Andersen (Sr. P-3B, .292, 17 RBI), Josh Jyawook (Sr. OF, .282, 21 RBI, 18 SB), Tim Polak (Jr. IF, .276), Matt Wisniewski (Sr. OF, .248, 16 RBI), Keith Giagnorio (Sr. 1B, .250, 16 RBI), Zack Kolakowski (Sr. SS, .418, 8 RBI).
Also pitching in: Hersey seniors Mike Danielak (8-1, 0.72, 58 IP, 83 Ks, 11 BBs), Brad Moore (3-0, 1.59), Aaron DeGeorge (3-1, 1.52) and junior Pat Nix (5-0, 1.38); Fremd seniors Lee Breitzman (5-1, 1.73, 602⁄3 IP, 41 Ks, 9 BBs) and Jason English (4-5, 2.43, 49 IP, 41 Ks, 24 BBs).
First meeting: Hersey used a 4-run first to win 5-2 at Fremd on April 13 as Danielak threw a complete-game 7-hitter with 6 strikeouts and Milligan went 3-for-3 with an RBI. "Every year they're one of the elite teams in the league and they have a ton of good athletes," Huber said of Fremd. "They always give us fits and it doesn't see very different this time. Last time we were fortunate to get four right away because of a copule of miscues but it wasn't like we went out and smoked them." English allowed only 2 earned runs in 4 innings, Jake Babcock threw 3 shutout innings and catcher Connor Bieda went 2-for-3. "It should be fun," Andersen said. "It's a new game and we definitely can hang with them."
Doing the little things: The change in the game with the less-livelier BBCOR bats is evident in both teams hitting just 2 homers apiece -- Nolan and Reszotko for Hersey and Browning and Giagnorio for Fremd. "It's always been a constant for us where you have to be able to bunt and move runners over and you can't rely on 3-run homers," Huber said. "Even then (team-record 40 homers in 2010) we stressed it and we always have." Ioratti has made significant improvement from last year offensively and defensively to become a key for the Huskies with the Dartmouth-bound Danielak, Toledo-bound Perkowitz, Reszotko and Haas. Ironically, Browning's homer in a comeback win over Buffalo Grove last Friday kept the Vikings in the West lead and on track for a fourth straight division title. "That was a turning point," Piggott said. "After that we got up a little bit and started swinging the bats." The Vikings also got a boost Thursday as the Illinois-bound Kolakowski returned after missing a month with a broken finger and went 1-for-3 in a loss to DeLaSalle.
On the hill: Both teams have thrived with strong starting pitching and Andersen has stepped up for Fremd along with Breitzman and English. "Our pitching has been awesome," said Andersen, who is going to Heartland Community College along with Jyawook. "(Pitching) coach (Brian) Smith told me at the beginning of the season I would be our No. 1 and Lee and Jason worked hard in the offseason. It's a lot of fun having us on our game every time we go out there." The same has been true for the Huskies' staff led by Danielak, Haas and Nix. "Pitching will do that for you," Huber said of Hersey's ability to avoid prolonged struggles. "A little bit of above-average pitching goes a long way to stopping streaks."
Chipping in: Fremd took a big hit when Kolakowski missed a month and senior 2B Danny Haduch (.278) has been hit hard with a concussion and wrist and rib injuries. Polak, senior Bobby McDonald and junior Grant Dunham have filled in. "Guys have stepped up and that shows the depth we have," Andersen said. Hersey was hurt before the season when projected starting catcher Brian Tansor was injured. Koutnik stepped in early in the season before moving to his more natural position at 1B and Reszotko, who didn't play last spring to focus on basketball but came back out last summer, has done a solid job behind the plate. "It was a shame he didn't play last year but we're glad he came back last summer," Huber said. "He's always played multiple positions and he's very athletic."
Handling expectations: Both teams were expected to be in the hunt for division titles and a chance to play in the MSL's showcase. "We have a senior-heavy team and it's awesome with how we all work together," Milligan said a few weeks ago after a win over Elk Grove. "We have high expectations and we're not slipping." For Fremd, this is one step toward breaking through to a regional title for the first time since 2002 after losing regional finals the last four years. "We talked about it during the season, about winning this," Browning said. "Hopefullly we can go on to the next level and win a regional."
History: Fremd has won the previous two title meetings with Hersey -- 1-0 in 2010 with Clint Terry outdueling Steve Danielak and 7-6 in 2001. "That was one of the better gaes I've ever been associated with," Huber said of the 2010 championship.
Fremd has won five MSL titles -- also in 1971 and 1974 and a shared crown in 1984 with Prospect when the two teams couldn't play because of multiople rainouts. Hersey won titles in 1972 and 1992 and also made title-game trips in 2004 and 2005.
Rolling Meadows has won the most MSL titles with 11 and Barrington is second with nine. Prospect beat Palatine 8-7 in 8 innings last year and the West has a 7-6 advantage over the East since the league realigned divisions before the 1999 season.
-- Marty Maciaszek