Baseball: Huntley finishes off win over Lake Park in state semifinals
Eight years ago Huntley's baseball team made its first trip to the state semifinals.
The Red Raiders now have a chance to finish the job.
Behind Kyle Morgan's 2-hitter, Huntley advanced to its first state title game with Friday's 5-1 victory over Lake Park in the Class 4A semifinals in Joliet.
The Red Raiders (33-6), who finished fourth in their only other semifinal appearance in 2010, face Friday night's winner between Plainfield North and Sandburg at 5 p.m. Saturday. Lake Park (24-15), appearing in its first Final Four, plays the loser of that game at 3 p.m. in the third-place game.
"We're excited for the opportunity," said Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski. "One more time to put the uniform on, and I can't be more proud of our kids."
As good as Morgan was while improving to 10-2 -- striking out five and walking two in an 81-pitch outing -- Lake Park counterpart Ryan Behling was nearly as good as he scattered 6 hits in 6 innings.
The difference was a 4-run bottom of the third that gave the Red Raiders all the momentum they needed. Locked in a pitchers' duel up to that point, Huntley seized command on Kamrin Hoffmann's 3-run triple to left-center field.
"We always have faith in who's up to bat," Hoffmann said. "It just happened to be me, but it could have been any of us. I was looking for a pitch to jump on. No matter what it was, I was looking to jump."
When Matt Rodriguez followed Hoffmann with a sacrifice fly for a 4-0 Huntley lead, Morgan had no problem closing it out from there.
"I felt like that was the turning point with the momentum right there," Morgan said. "It gave me confidence to just attack the zone and throw strikes. I was able to command all three pitches, and it worked well for us."
Morgan faced the minimum in the first three innings, allowing his first hit to Lake Park's Anthony DeConcilis leading off the top of the fourth. Two batters later DeConcilis scored on Zach Aehlert's sacrifice fly.
The Lancers and Behling were settled in at that point, but the damage was already done.
"We wanted to come out and fight and make this a ballgame so we could tie it up or take the lead," Aehlert said. "We were a different team after that bad inning. We didn't roll over and die. The outcome wasn't our way, but that's baseball."
Huntley got the run back in the sixth inning when Joey Petryniec's sacrifice fly to short right field drove in A.J. Henkle. Morgan allowed a leadoff walk in the top of the seventh but then retired the next three batters to end it.
"Today I felt good," Behling said. "Credit to them, though. They just hit the ball real well off me. They just outplayed us today."
Huntley will send another third-year starting pitcher, Nick Laxner, to the mound on Saturday. He's 7-1 with a 2.96 ERA.
Lake Park also aims to go out on a winning note.
"I told the kids after this game, 'There's only two teams that are going to walk away with a win at the end of the season. Let's be one of them,'" said Lancers coach Dan Colucci. "Our attitude (Saturday) is we're going to come in and play a great baseball game. We didn't play the kind of game that we've been playing the last five games, and the result showed. We want to get back to playing that good type of baseball. We want to go out with a win."
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