Baseball: Cary-Grove holds on over Huntley
Soon-to-be-drafted fireballer Quinn Priester struck out 11 in 6⅔ innings, but reliever Ethan Estes recorded the most critical strikeout of Cary-Grove's 5-4 victory over Huntley in McHenry Wednesday.
Priester -- a 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-hander projected by ESPN and multiple national publications to be selected in the first round of next Monday's Major League Baseball first-year player draft -- led 5-2 heading to the top of the seventh inning of a Class 4A McHenry sectional semifinal.
The Cary-Grove ace had thrown 94 pitches. The IHSA postseason limit is 115. Priester struck out Hunter Rumachik and induced a groundball from Jake Lyon to shortstop LJ Waco for two quick outs.
Then came a two-out rally from Fox Valley Conference co-champion Huntley (28-10), the 2018 Class 4A state-runner up.
Evan Tocmo worked the count full and drew a walk. Zach Model followed with an infield single.
Michael Talesky then stepped to the plate and laced Priester's 115th pitch, a fastball, to left field for an RBI single that trimmed the deficit to 5-3.
"We don't quit," Talesky said. "We could be down by 10 runs in the last inning and we'll put up a fight. We just play for the name on the front of our shirt and that's it."
Cary-Grove first-year head coach Ryan Passaglia called on left-hander Ethan Estes to relieve. It didn't go well at first. Estes walked Aj Henkle on 5 pitches to load the bases and subsequently beaned Kyle Maurer to force in a run.
Estes responded by getting ahead in the count 1-2 to Jackson Broom. His curveball resulted in a swinging strikeout to complete the save.
"I just tried to stay composed on the mound," Estes said. "Deep breaths in and out. That's it."
"We like bringing him in after Quinn because of the two different sides and the different spin," Passaglia said. "He's been doing that all season long for us."
Priester allowed 4 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits and walked a pair. Many of his 11 strikeouts came courtesy of a sharp-breaking curveball that offset a low-to-mid-90s fastball. He said he wanted to finish the game himself but appreciated the help.
"Ethan is an awesome pitcher for us," Priester said. "He came in and shut the door for me."
Cary-Grove advances to the McHenry sectional final on Saturday against Hampshire (20-14), which defeated Barrington 3-0 in 11 innings in the second semifinal at Petersen Park.
Cary-Grove swept the 3-game regular-season series against Hampshire, then lost 8 of 10 games leading into the playoffs.
"Our kids have done a great job all season of just battling through tough times," Passaglia said. "When things weren't going well, we just kept grinding."
Priester drove in the first run with a third-inning single to left field. Bobby Jannusch staked the Trojans to a 3-0 lead two outs later with a line-drive single to center.
"Big hit early," Passaglia said of Jannusch's contribution.
Cary-Grove added 2 fourth-inning runs to take a 5-0 lead. Nathan Splitt and Ryan Weaver scored on an infield throwing errors by the Red Raiders. Each team committed 3 errors.
Huntley got 2 runs back in the fourth inning. Kyle Maurer singled to drive in Talesky and Dylan Janke's groundball scored Maurer to make it 5-2.
Though Huntley's rally fell just shy, coach Andy Jakubowski lauded his team's never-say-die approach.
"Our guys fought all year long," he said. "I couldn't ask for anything more from our guys. I'm very proud of them and everything they've accomplished in the last two years. They've left a legacy for our younger guys to follow."
Hampshire 3, Barrington 0: Never did a blister hurt so good.
It started developing in the eighth inning, the first of several extra innings between Hampshire and Barrington on Wednesday night.
But Hampshire pitcher Matthew Jachec didn't care.
He was rolling, and a pesky, nagging blister on the tip of his middle finger of his throwing hand, no matter how much it stung and irritated him, wasn't going to throw him off. Nothing was.
Jachec was having the game of his life.
"I was a little worried they'd want me to come out. Every pitch releases off that finger. It was bad, but I just kept battling because there was no way I would come out," Jachec said. "This is by far the most innings I've ever pitched. And by far the best I've ever pitched."
It took 11 innings and some failed attempts at wrapping up the blister, but Jachec led Hampshire to a dramatic 3-0 victory over Barrington in the Class 4A McHenry sectional at Peterson Park.
The Whip-Purs, who improved to 20-14 and scored all 3 of their runs in the top of 11th when Gavin Kriegel and Caden Pyszka hit back-to-back doubles, advance to Saturday's sectional championship game against Cary-Grove.
Jachec gave up only 3 hits over 10 innings and had 5 strikeouts before being subbed out because he finally hit the 115 maximum pitch count. Then reliever Dylan Petrey came in to close out the game with three straight strikeouts in the bottom of the 11th inning.
"That kid pitched extraordinarily well," Barrington coach Pat Wire said of Jachec. "He had great command. He never gave us anything for free. We had 3 hits. We had chances, we just didn't capitalize.
"I'd be lying if I said we weren't frustrated, because I feel like we've faced pitchers who have stuff like that, with that kind of velocity or that kind of command. But he was definitely on, like he was pitching his very best performance."
Barrington's pitchers were also tough to crack.
Starter RJ Nowicki went nearly eight full innings without giving up a run. He was replaced with two outs in the eighth by Rayth Petersen and had given up just 4 hits.
Petersen kept Hampshire off the scoreboard for another two innings until the big doubles by Kriegel and Pyszka.
"I was just waiting for a pitch like that all game," said Kriegel, who drove in Hampshire's first two runs with his double, which sailed into left field. "There was just a lot of movement on everything (Nowicki and Petersen) threw and they were hitting their spots. They were tough. But they finally gave me the pitch I was looking for."
Barrington, which closed its season with a 30-8 record, had a tough time finding that perfect pitch.
As if there wasn't enough celebration outside the Hampshire dugout after the game, the players then broke into singing "Happy Birthday" for head coach Frank Simoncelli, who turned 33 on Wednesday.
"What a great birthday present," Simoncelli said. "I mean, Holy Cow. I think this is the best game I've ever been a part of.
"Both teams grinded it out and it was so fun."
-- Patricia Babcock McGraw
St. Charles North 8, Lake Park 2: At a ballpark situated on a road with a familiar name, Johnny Lambert pitched as if he owned the place.
The St. Charles North junior did not allow a hit in 3⅓ scoreless innings of relief and the North Stars rallied to beat Lake Park 8-2 on Wednesday night at the Class 4A Glenbard West sectional semifinals.
The second-seeded North Stars (26-10) advance to Saturday's championship game against Elk Grove, which edged Glenbard West 2-1 in the other semifinal.
The game was played at Village Green, which coincidentally is on Lambert Road in Glen Ellyn.
"It was fitting that on the way here today we turned on Lambert Road and the coaches were talking about how hopefully it's going to be a Johnny Lambert night," St. Charles North coach Todd Genke said. "We were not going to hesitate at all to bring him in.
"He's been very effective. In fact he's been dominant at times."
Lambert was at his best against 11th-seeded Lake Park, which was looking to avenge three regular-season losses to the North Stars.
The game was tied 1-1 when Genke pulled starter Zach Kempe with the bases in the top of the third inning.
Lambert, a left-handed sidearmer, retired Joe Harrington on a fly to center to end that threat. He allowed just two baserunners during a 43-pitch effort.
"(The approach) was just throw strikes, honestly," Lambert said. "When you're loading bases, most of the time it's from walks.
"Our fielding is usually stellar, so I just keep it in the zone, compete in the zone. The curveball here and there was a little wild, but I had my fastball."
Lambert hit Eric Brown to lead off the fourth but a double play erased that threat. Nick Aehlert walked to start the sixth, but Lambert retired the side with a fielder's choice grounder and 2 of his 3 strikeouts.
"He's really tough on left-handers but he also pitches inside well and he locates," Genke said. "He's a competitor and it's in his blood."
Lambert, whose brother Jack helped the North Stars to third place in the state in 2016 and now plays for Western Kentucky, is tricky to read because of his sidearm delivery, a rarity among southpaws.
"Slowly, every single year I've been just naturally dropping lower and lower," Lambert said. "I just naturally do it and never really think about it."
The Lancers (19-17) thought they had the makings of a big inning in the first. Chris Worcester led off with a single and eventually scored on three wild pitches. Kempe walked John DeConcilis and hit Lake Park pitcher Masen Riser, but third baseman Kevin White fielded Nick Aehlert's bunt and started a 5-6-3 double play.
Lambert (5-0) gave a hand to St. Charles North's hitters, who produced a run in all but the first inning. The North Stars had 10 hits and 3 sacrifice flies, including one from Kempe that tied the game in the second.
White went 3-for-4 with 2 doubles, the last of which capped a 3-run sixth inning. Pat Bellock, whose third-inning RBI single put North ahead to stay, Nick DeMarco and Marco Torres all added 2 hits.
"It feels great (to be in the sectional final)," Lambert said. "I love these guys and I'm so proud of every single one of them."
-- Matt LeCren
Dixon 13, Kaneland 3: No one saw that coming.
Kaneland's captain might as well have been named Murphy, because just about everything that could go wrong did as the Knights fell to Dixon, 13-3, in 5 innings in the semifinals of the Class 3A Sycamore sectional.
The Knights gave up 10 walks, 2 hit batters, 7 wild pitches, and made 4 errors. Meanwhile, the offense generated just 2 hits: a bloop and an infield roller.
"A lot of self-imposed injuries today that aren't characteristic of our type of baseball," said Knights coach Brian Aversa. "I'm still waiting for my alarm to go off and wake up and be, 'Oh, it was just a nightmare,' and go back out and get it today.
"We picked a bad day to play our worst game of the year."
Kaneland (27-10) went ahead 3-2 in the bottom of the first. In the second, Knights starter Nik Panico got 2 quick outs and got 2 strikes on Dixon's Isaic Sanchez. He didn't get the call on a borderline pitch that would have been strike 3 and ended up walking Sanchez. What followed? Two soft hits, another walk, a stolen base, a wild pitch, and the Dukes suddenly led 4-3.
Having thus seized the momentum, Dixon added 5 more in the third. They scored 4 times in the fourth, capped by Tucker Cole's 2-run homer to deep left field.
It was frustrating to see the game turn so quickly on a matter of a few inches.
"Yeah, but you can't make any excuses," Panico said. "You've got to get after it the next pitch and sometimes it just doesn't fall your way."
Still, the season as a whole was hardly a failure.
"We had a few goals," Panico recalled. "One was 20 wins, we got 20 wins, conference champs by ourselves, we ended up doing that, win a regional championship which we got. It didn't end the way we want but, in the end, there's only one winner."
-- Allen Oshinski
Crystal Lake South 5, Prairie Ridge 1: The Crystal Lake South baseball team's late-season tear continued Wednesday with a 5-1 victory over Prairie Ridge in a Class 3A Grayslake Central sectional semifinal.
Winning pitcher Jacob Bimbi held Fox Valley Conference co-champion Prairie Ridge (27-10) to an earned run on 6 hits and 2 walks and struck out 10 in 6 innings.
Reliever Beiker Fuentes notched a bases-loaded strikeout on a 3-2 fastball to complete the save.
"We used Bimbi to the max limit (115 pitches) and he really attacked the zone and trusted his defense," Gators coach Brian Bogda said. "Getting 10 strikeouts obviously helped out. That last inning we knew PR would make it tough, but Beiker got the strikeout to end the game."
Crystal Lake South (24-10) advances to the sectional final against the Carmel-Grayslake Central winner Saturday at 11 a.m.
The Gators, 8-8 on April 20, have won 16 of 18. They return to a sectional final for the first time since 2017, when they won the Class 4A state title.
"We played some very, very good teams early on in the conference season, starting with Cary-Grove, Prairie Ridge and Hampshire, who were among five teams in our conference to win a regional," Bogda said. "I think the guys learned from each of those series what we could do and what we could do better. I'm proud of the way they trusted each other, trusted us and have grown with each game."
Senior Michael Patterson took the loss for the Wolves after allowing 3 earned runs on 6 hits and 2 walks in 2⅔ innings.
Nick Benedetto drove in 2 runs, including a sacrifice fly that got the Gators on the scoreboard first in a 3-run third-inning. Patrick Fischer went 2-for-4 and scored on a wild pitch, and Henry Tipton and Ben Peltz (RBI) each contributed 2 hits.