Baseball: Huntley handles Loyola, headed to state
The Boomers Stadium scoring curse ended early.
The bullpen held on late.
Huntley baseball is headed back to state.
The Red Raiders jumped to a 5-run lead after three innings and the bend-but-don't-break bullpen staved off a Loyola Academy comeback in an 8-4 win in Schaumburg Monday.
Senior Matt Rodriguez hit for the cycle, starting pitcher Eli Paplanus pitched 4 perfect innings and reliever Hunter Rumachik extinguished a late fire to lead Huntley to the state finals for the second time in program history. The Red Raiders finished fourth in Class 4A in 2010.
"This is huge," said Paplanus (5-1), Huntley's No. 3 starter. "We've played here twice in our history and we got shut out both times. If you'd told me we'd be here scoring 7 runs at Boomers Stadium, I would have thought you were crazy. I would not have believed it at all."
Huntley (32-6), which broke the program record for single-season wins, was shut out 8-0 at the same venue in a 2016 supersectional by Mundelein. Later that summer the Red Raiders were blanked there in the semifinals of the Phil Lawler summer state tournament.
Huntley got the first run out of the way early when Rodriguez singled with two outs to drive in Jordan Goldstein.
The Red Raiders bulged the lead to 5-0 with a 4-run third inning. That rally featured doubles by junior Jason Peters, senior Kamrin Hoffman and Goldstein and a triple by Rodriguez, the team's Rubenesque designated hitter.
"I haven't hit many, so it was good to hit a triple," said Rodriguez, who went 4-for-4 with 4 RBI and scored twice.
"That's a senior stepping up in a big moment," Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said. "Matty's done that for two years for us now. What a great job. We love having him in the middle of the order."
The Red Raiders tacked on single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth and needed them all. Paplanus tired in the fifth inning and gave up a pair of earned runs on 2 hits and 2 walks.
Loyola (23-10-1) scored twice more in the sixth against reliever Grant Yakimisky, but Rumachik ended the threat before things got out of hand. With the bases loaded and two away, he induced an easy popup to second baseman Zach Model to preserve a 7-4 lead.
"Curve ball inside. Perfect location. Sawed him off," said Rumachik, who earned his fourth save. "I was nervous at first, but I had faith my teammates would get the job done if I threw strikes. They'd been making plays all games long."
Rodriguez completed the supersectional cycle by hammering a seventh-inning pitch over the left-field wall, his fifth round-tripper this season.
"I knew he was going to try to come with a fastball again because they had been pitching off speed to me all day," he said. "I was just waiting."
Rumachik retired the side in order in the seventh. Goldstein momentarily bobbled a groundball at shortstop but threw to first in time for the final out that sent the Red Raiders back to Joliet.
"It's a great feeling," Rodriguez said. "No one thought of us being this good early in the year so we just wanted to prove them wrong. Now, we're doing it."