Baseball: Hampshire continues its Cinderella story
Sophomore relief pitcher Dylan Petrey and his Hampshire teammates were holding on for dear life Saturday.
Cary-Grove senior Quinn Priester had just smashed a solo home run off the scoreboard at Petersen Park in McHenry to trim Hampshire's seventh-inning lead to one run.
Dymitri Kanellakis then ripped a two-out triple to right center to heighten the drama with a Class 4A sectional title hanging in the balance.
How was Petrey feeling with the potential tying run 90 feet away?
"I was sweating. Everything's on you," he said. "But you just know you have to do your job, throw strikes, pound the zone."
The 5-foot-9 left-hander's next pitch relieved the tension.
Petrey induced a humpback lineout from Cary-Grove sophomore Bobby Jannusch to second baseman Caden Pyszka to seal a 5-4 Hampshire victory.
"We got through it," Hampshire right fielder Nick Sladek said. "It was building up. The intensity was nice. It was a fun game."
The baseball sectional championship is Hampshire's first since 2008, when coach Steve Ream directed the Whip-Purs to a Class 2A title.
The 2019 Whip-Purs have won playoff games against Harlem, Hononegah, Barrington and Cary-Grove after losing 6 of their final 9 regular-season games.
"It's like a Cinderella story," winning pitcher Logan Nespor said. "Nobody expected us to do anything. They underestimated us."
"I think it's just the mindset that these kids have right now," Hampshire coach Frank Simoncelli said. "They're just believing. I mean, they're playing with every ounce of heart that they have."
Hampshire (21-14) advances to a supersectional at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg against Oak Park-River Forest (23-12) on Monday at 5 p.m. The Huskies defeated Glenbrook South 7-3 to win the Loyola Academy sectional.
Petrey's fifth save in five chances made a winner of Nespor (6-2). The 6-foot-2 senior right-hander with the three-quarter sidearm delivery limited Cary-Grove (23-14) to 3 runs (1 earned) on 5 hits in 6 innings. He walked four and struck out seven.
Nespor benefitted from continued strong defense behind him. Shortstop Gavin Kriegel set the tone with a diving first-inning grab. Sladek, normally a first baseman, made two diving catches in right field.
"It's the sharpest it's ever been," Kriegel said of Hampshire's fielding. "It's just great to see the whole team coming together and support our pitcher so they can keep their counts low and work deep into games."
The Whips committed one error on the heels of an error-free performance against Barrington on Wednesday. That was by Nespor. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth inning, he fielded a comebacker to the mound that had double play written all over it. Instead, he threw wildly to home plate. Ryan Weaver and Quinn Priester scored to cut Hampshire's lead to 5-2.
Nespor bounced right back by striking out three straight Trojans to strand runners at first and second.
Weaver doubled in the fifth inning to draw Cary-Grove within 5-3, but Nespor notched three consecutive outs -- groundball, flyball, strikeout -- to strand two more.
"In a game like this I was just trying to pitch my heart out," he said. "I knew the game came down to it and I needed to get the job done."
Hampshire grabbed a 2-0, first-inning lead against Cary-Grove junior Jack Wenninger (6-3) on RBI singles by Matt Jachec and Kriegel. Jachec scored on a third-inning wild pitch to make it 3-0.
Andrew Krajecki doubled to drive in a fourth-inning run. He scored to make it 5-0, thanks to an errant throw by Cary-Grove, which committed 3 errors.
"We just made too many mistakes early in the game and we got behind," Cary-Grove coach Ryan Passaglia said. "We didn't lose that game in the seventh inning, that's for sure. We got down early and made some mistakes we don't usually make."
Jachec -- an Indiana State-bound right-hander who threw 116 pitches over 10 innings in a 3-0 win against Barrington Wednesday -- is scheduled to face Oak Park-River Forest Monday. He is 6-3 with a 0.67 ERA and has struck out 102 in 73 innings.
"I'm super excited. I'll be ready to go," he said. "I love pitching in those moments. I love playing in those moments. I have fun. I don't get nervous."