Just another step toward ultimate goal for Jacobs
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Jacob's hoists the championship plaque after its win over Dundee-Crown in the Class 4A sectional baseball championship game Saturday at Huntley High School.
Brian Hill | Staff Photographer
The Jacobs baseball players considered Saturday's 9-0 sectional championship victory the halfway point.
For District 300 rival Dundee-Crown, it was the anticlimactic end of a magical postseason run.
"Our outcome goals were to win a regional, then a sectional, then a supersectional, then state," Jacobs senior catcher Greg Sidor said. "We've got two of them knocked off. Now we're trying for the next two. I don't know that I've completely wrapped my mind around that yet, but it seems pretty realistic right now."
Championship aspirations tend to become more realistic once a team draws within three victories of winning a state title as the surging Golden Eagles have. A program that never previously won 20 games or a regional title now has 25 wins and a shiny new sectional plaque to bookend the regional plaque it won last Saturday.
Next up is St. Charles East (26-11) in a Class 4A supersectional at Rockford RiverHawks Stadium on Monday at 7 p.m.
"Just thinking about it makes me giddy," Jacobs first baseman Ben Murray said of playing for a berth in the state finals. " To say you went to state? That's huge. We want to get down there and then do some damage."
A team doesn't advance to the Elite Eight without talent, and Jacobs' skills were on display from the start against D-C. Senior right-hander Nick Ledinsky (7-2) pitched his second straight complete game in a big spot, allowing only 2 hits and 2 walks while striking out 6 in a 100-pitch effort. He is 2-0 in the postseason with a 0.50 ERA.
At the plate, Ledinsky and senior Connor Conzelman each went 2-for-4 with a double and 2 RBI. Senior designated hitter Aaron Meciej and senior shortstop Matt Hickey each added 2 hits. So did second baseman Grant Kale, the only junior in an otherwise all-senior starting lineup.
"You need an entire team, but you win a lot of times with seniors," coach Jamie Murray said. "And we have a lot of them."
Another key reason these Golden Eagles are soaring to stratospheric levels is the stability Murray has brought to the program in his second season. A former Bradley University player, he is the third coach to lead Jacobs since this graduated senior class entered high school.
Remember that big snow that buried downstate Illinois over spring break in March? Well, Jacobs was supposed to head south that week to play Morton, Pekin and Limestone. Instead of bagging the trip due to unplayable conditions, Murray insisted the team travel as planned to promote team bonding. It turned out to be a wise move.
"It really just got everybody together," Conzelman said. "I mean, we already knew each other, but just getting away from Algonquin, being in the hotel, just us guys, playing video games, getting to know each other more. It was good for us.
"We're basically brothers. We're with each other more than we're with our own families. It's something special to be with these guys. It makes us want to keep winning that much more because we know the next day we get to be with our brothers on the field."
The other side of the coin is the fraternity Dundee-Crown's players exhibited throughout a remarkable playoff run that kept heads shaking areawide.
Other than their own parents, nobody expected the Chargers, an 8-18 team through the end of the regular season, to defeat top seed Huntley 3-0 for a regional title or score 10 runs in the first inning of a 15-4 sectional semifinal deconstruction of Prairie Ridge. OK, maybe not even their parents expected it.
But the Chargers indeed came together at exactly the right time under the direction of first-year coach Jon Anderson. The former shortstop played for hall-of-fame coaches Kirby Smith at Barrington High School and Itch Jones at the University of Illinois before spending three years in the Boston Red Sox system. One of his former coaches must have told Anderson where the fairy dust is hidden because his Chargers were coated in the stuff for two magical weeks of postseason baseball.
"Like I told the boys, we were one of 16 teams playing today, so I was very proud of them," Anderson said.
The season ended for D-C at the hands of its greatest rival, but the memories of what these Chargers accomplished will forever linger.
"I'm so proud of all the guys on the team," said senior catcher Dylan Kissack, a four-year varsity baseball and basketball player. "This has definitely been one of the best teams I've been on as far as talent and the camaraderie we have. We've all come together and it's been like a family. What we've been able to accomplish has been incredible. I've enjoyed every second of it.
"It hurts now, but when we look back on it I think we're going to remember how far we got and how great of a run it was."
Follow Jerry on Twitter: @jerfitzpatrick
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