Baseball: Jacobs comes back in seventh to top McHenry for regional title
Nicholas Gottfried didn't get many chances to help Jacobs win games this season, but in the biggest moment of the biggest game of the year, Gottfried came up with clutch plays.
Gottfried tied Saturday's game against McHenry in the top of the seventh inning and then went on to score the go-ahead run to lead Jacobs to a 9-5 comeback win and the Class 4A Dundee-Crown Regional title.
"It feels really good," Gottfried said. "Coming out here, helping my team out and getting the win."
Gottfried missed six weeks of the season for Jacobs (18-18) because of a broken bone in his hand, but he was confident when he came to the plate trailing 5-4 with a runner on first base. Despite being a switch hitter who usually bats from the left-handed side, he smacked the ball as a right-hander that went to the centerfield wall and tied the game on a triple.
"I was 100% confident in myself," Gottfried said. "I knew that I could get it done."
The Golden Eagles kept the rally going when Christian Graves walked and Owen Ziaja then drove in Gottfried to give Jacobs a 6-5 lead. Nathan Matrinko then scored on a wild pitch and Nathan Gerritsen drove in two more runs on a double to make it a 9-5 game.
Gavin Feck came in the bottom of the seventh and threw a perfect inning, striking out two, to earn the save.
Jacobs kept battling despite falling behind 5-1 after two innings. Gottfried scored on an error in the third inning to make it a 5-2 lead before Graves and Ziaja each drove in runs in the fifth to make it a 5-4 McHenry lead.
"These guys were prepared for this moment," Jacobs coach Jamie Murray said. "We weathered the storm, got the water off the boat and played 21 outs. I'm so proud of these guys."
Anthony Edge started for Jacobs and threw two innings, allowing five runs, two earned, on three hits with two strikeouts. Brandon Helbig came in after the third inning and threw four innings of scoreless relief, striking out five batters and allowing two hits to stop the damage.
Helbig used to start at third base but then moved to the bullpen. Murray was proud of how Helbig accepted his role and was critical in the Golden Eagles' comeback.
"He understood his role," Murray said. "He knew he was going to be a guy in the bullpen, he embraced it and I couldn't be happier."
McHenry (21-15) made Jacobs pay for its mistakes in the second inning. Sam Martorano tied the game at 1-1 when he singled in a run and then another scored on a throwing error to give McHenry a 2-1 lead. Martorano scored on a wild pitch and Ryan Nagel scored from third base on a groundout to make it 4-1. Jack Stecker made it 5-1 when he drove in a run off a single.
Warriors starter Lleyton Grubich threw 6 ⅓ innings, allowing seven runs, five earned, on eight hits with six strikeouts.
McHenry coach Brian Rockweiler knows how important playing all 21 outs in a playoff game is after the Warriors finished fourth in last season's postseason.
"We didn't make some plays that probably cost us," Rockweiler said. "You can't do that in a regional championship. Overall I'm proud of our guys, I thought we had a good season, it is what it is. When it gets to the playoffs, you never know. You have to bring it every day and play 21 outs, today they did a better job than we did."
Jacobs will play Huntley on Wednesday in the Class 4A Dundee-Crown Sectional semifinal. The Golden Eagles lost both of their matchups against the Red Raiders, 3-1 and 12-2, respectively, but Jacobs is ready to continue Saturday's momentum.
"I think it's good that we got the momentum rolling," Gottfried said. "I know deep down with all the guys that we can beat them."