Huntley junior catcher Mark Skonieczny had a forgettable start to an unforgettable game Friday at Prairie Ridge.
Teammate Jake Wagner didn't let Skonieczny forget about it after the top-ranked Red Raiders weathered three hours in cold, windy and snowy conditions for a 16-10 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division baseball victory in Crystal Lake.
"Hey Mark, remember when you struck out," Wagner shouted amid a lot of laughter to the Illinois recruit prior to Huntley's postgame meeting.
But Skonieczny struck back emphatically with home runs in his final 3 at-bats and finished with 8 RBI as every starter in the Huntley (13-0, 6-0) lineup contributed to a 17-hit attack. Not bad after coming up empty in his first at-bat, hitting a jam-shot RBI grounder to second base his second time up and falling behind 0-2 in the count on two failed sacrifice bunt attempts before embarking on a power display that puts him at 5 homers for the season.
"All of us on the team like to joke around and have fun," Skonieczny said of Wagner's razzing after his first 3-homer game at any level. "But when it comes time to get down to business we do it.
"Early on they threw a lot of inside pitches to me because with a cold day, if you hit it off the handle it wouldn't go anywhere. My (last) 3 at-bats I backed up off the plate a little bit and I was able to get pitches off the barrel."
Skonieczny wasn't the only one as Louisville-bound leadoff man Colin Lyman went 4-for-5 with a double, triple and 3 RBI and Nebraska-bound Bryce Only went 2-for-4 with a solo homer and sacrifice fly.
"Our approach has been great lately and the whole year," Lyman said.
"The top three guys in the order did well," said Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski. "Chris had a great day offensively and obviously Mark was spraying it to all the gaps. Bryce swung the bat well, too."
Tyler Albright and Kam Sallee also had 2 hits apiece, Tommy Kiriakopoulos, Tyler Mindak and Wagner drove in runs and Matt Sullivan also had a single. But the Red Raiders also turned a lot of little things into big things such as Sallee's sacrifice and Sullivan hitting a grounder to second to move Albright to third after a double.
"I was happy with us manufacturing the way we did and we did a nice job of hitting behind runners," Jakubowski said.
"When we get a guy on base and get him over, we know the whole team will be there to pick you up," Lyman said. "It's almost louder in the dugout when someone moves someone over than when someone gets a hit, because we know they sacrificed themselves for the team."
That's what Skonieczny was trying to do in the top of the fourth after Prairie Ridge (14-4, 4-2) cut a 6-0 deficit in half on a 3-run homer by Missouri-bound Jordan Getzelman (2-for-4, 5 RBI). Skonieczny made up for not moving the runners up with a bunt by bringing them around on a long blast to left field.
An inning later, he came up with a 3-0 count and lined a 3-run shot over the fence in deep right-center to put Huntley up 14-6.
"Prairie Ridge was obviously battling back and I give them a lot of credit because they were in the game the whole time," Skonieczny said. "I was very surprised coach gave me the green light on 3-0 in such a close game."
Diminishing light almost kept Skonieczny's third homer from counting after his solo shot to left-center in the seventh. The umpires were initially going to call the game with one out in the bottom of the inning but wound up finishing it after talking with Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro and Jakubowski.
Nick Constantino got the victory with 3 innings of relief as Huntley overcame 7 walks, 5 hit batters and 3 errors.
"We need to clean that up (today)," Jakubowski said of the noon rematch at Huntley.
"We played hard in tough weather conditions," Skonieczny said, "overcame adversity as a team and won a baseball game."