Baseball: Hampshire's finishing where it started
The Hampshire baseball season will end in the same place it began: Joliet.
Hampshire second-year coach Frank Simoncelli said his players thought he was crazy for scheduling a Friday night game at Route 66 Stadium in Joliet on March 22.
It was predictably frigid, 40 degrees, when senior Matt Jachec took the mound for the season opener against Conant that night. The Indiana-State committed right-hander struck out 7 and the Whip-Purs won 10-0 in five innings.
It was foreshadowing.
Jachec (pronounced Jay-SEK) guaranteed Hampshire (22-14) a return trip to Route 66 Stadium by shutting out Oak Park-River Forest 4-0 in a Class 4A supersectional at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg Monday. The senior threw a 5-hitter with 8 strikeouts and no walks.
His effort, supported by an offense that generated 8 hits against Pepperdine-bound left-hander Nate Diamond (9-2), sent Hampshire to the state finals in Joliet for the first time in program history.
"It's crazy," Jachec said. "You see how many people came and supported us. The whole town is behind us. It's awesome -- the cheering, the fans. Our team, we're all just so happy."
Jachec was staked to a 2-0 first-inning lead, and the Whips added 2 runs in the third.
The first-inning rally was keyed by Gavin Kriegel's double. Nick Sladek singled and Jachec walked ahead of Kriegel, who smacked a long flyball to right center that landed just out of the right-fielder's reach for a 1-0 lead. Courtesy runner Kai Nguyen scored on a two-out wild pitch to make it 2-0.
"When you give Matt two runs early on, you're feeling pretty good," Simoncelli said. "You could feel it. Once we scored those two runs everybody was feeling confident. The stadium was erupting. It was such a cool atmosphere."
Caden Pyszka doubled to deep left field in the third inning to drive in Sladek for a 3-0 lead. Senior Jon Mroz followed with a line-drive single to left that scored Nguyen, who ran for Jachec after he reached on an error.
Jachec did the rest. OP-RF (24-12) put runners at the corners with one out in the top of the fifth, but Hampshire's ace escaped via a strikeout and a flyball to center fielder Andrew Krajecki. Most of his strikeouts came via the fastball.
"When I'd get two strikes I'd pound away, low and away," Jachec said. "(The umpire) was giving me that pitch all day and I just kept throwing it there."
Only one Huskie reached base against Jachec in the final two innings, and that was due to an error. It helped that Jachec and catcher Dylan Petrey made a midgame adjustment.
"When they caught on that we were on the outside corner, he went inside with the two-seam," Petrey said. "It worked out perfectly, getting them off guard and jamming them."
The Huskies did not manage another hit after the fifth and went in order in the seventh.
"I think we were maybe outguessing ourselves up there for some reason," OP-RF coach Joe Parenti said. "He was attacking the zone. We had some spurts but we just couldn't get that big two-out hit when we needed it."
Hampshire advances to a Class 4A semifinal Friday at 3 p.m. against Edwardsville, which defeated Marist 6-5 in Springfield.
"At the beginning of the year we were like, who knows what we can do," Sladek said. "Now we're going to state. We started there. Now, we're going to finish there."