Baseball: Nowicki helps Barrington clinch MSL West title
There was still more work to be done.
Not that Barrington pitcher R.J. Nowicki hadn't already done his fair share on Monday afternoon.
But moments after pitching a complete game, seven-inning shutout gem in a 2-0 victory over visiting Hersey, Nowicki was doing field work. He was tossing around a bag of clay and helping a few teammates smooth out and build back up the mound that he used so efficiently in a critical game for the Broncos.
With the win over Hersey, Barrington, which improved to 26-6 on the season, wins the Mid-Suburban League West Division outright with a 13-3 record and advances to Thursday's MSL title game at Elk Grove at 4:45 p.m.
"I love doing (the mound work)," Nowicki said with a smile. "These are my guys and we take care of the mound every day. It's a constant grind. But (the mound) is always good and it's ready for us to pitch."
Nowicki, who recently verbally committed to Northern Illinois University, seemed ready for a big game right out of the gate. He gave up a quick single to fellow pitcher James Denten in the second at-bat of the game, but then he kept Hersey hitless for the next three innings.
On the game, Nowicki finished with 7 strikeouts to no walks. He stays perfect on the mound with a 9-0 record. On the season, he is sitting on an impressive 0.139 earned run average. He has 54 strikeouts and just 8 walks over 50 innings pitched.
"R.J. is one of the most competitive kids we've ever had and when you command the zone, good things happen," Barrington coach Pat Wire said. "He moves the ball around and if you can change speeds too, you're going to be successful. You don't have to be a kid who throws 96 (mph). If you do, that's nice. But if you move the ball around, you can be successful and he's done that all season long for us. He's tough."
Denten was equally tough for Hersey.
He also went the distance and kept Barrington hitless for the first three innings and scoreless for the first four. Overall, Denten gave up only 4 hits and also had 3 strikeouts.
But in the fifth inning, Denten showed Barrington right fielder Max Raynor exactly the pitch he was looking for and Raynor crushed it over the scoreboard in left field, a good 320 feet.
It was Raynor's second home run of the season.
It seemed like the homer was going to stand as the only run of the game in this pitchers' duel, but the Broncos got some insurance when Clark Elliott drove in Will Koehler with a single in the sixth inning.
"It was good to get that home run," Raynor said. "I've actually been kind of slumping lately, but the coaches have been building up my confidence. And now, I think I've broken free of that (slump), and I'm going to run with it."
The Broncos are hoping to run with this momentum into the MSL title game. Barrington has won seven straight MSL West titles and has played in the conference title game in six of the last seven years and the last five straight years.
The Broncos last won the MSL title in 2017.
"This had a playoff feel baseball game and Hersey is a very good team," Wire said. "They were no-hitting us there for awhile. We're excited to see what we can do now after this tough game in the title game and then we'll go into the playoffs."
The Huskies, who dropped to 15-14 on the season and finish the MSL East with an 8-8 record, are confident a strong playoff run is in their future, too.
"We should have won today," Denten said. "I think we were playing a little too tight. But we can turn it around (in the playoffs). I know we can."