4A Championship: Plainfield North withstands Huntley's comeback to win its first-ever State title

By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer


JOLIET, Ill. – Either Huntley or Plainfield North would be hoisting their program’s first-ever 4A State championship on Saturday evening at Route 66 Stadium in Joliet. And, ultimately, the Tigers withstood Huntley’s ferocious seventh-inning comeback to capture the defining prize in prep baseball: a State title.

This game was drama-packed from beginning to end, featuring the tournament’s first home run, yet another Red Raider rally, an impromptu fireworks show, and a cold-blooded sophomore closer.

Frankly, the hit column tells a fair tale regarding the outcome of tonight’s contest. Huntley out-hit their opposition, 10-6, but still fell a run shy of the tie. Plainfield North conjured all of its hits at either the beginning or the end of their rallies and it showed on the scoreboard.

North sent lefty Keegan Bates to the mound to open the game while Huntley called on the second piece of their staff’s one-two punch, Nick Laxner. Bates had actually recorded the final out of Friday’s semifinal game with Sandburg once ace Brady Miller reached his pitch limit. Both starters had cool heads in the first and kept the game scoreless, but things opened up in the second and Laxner eventually blinked first.

Huntley began the inning with two infield singles and the second one actually got the lead-off man Hunter Rumachik to third base on a throwing error, giving the Red Raiders the game’s first real scoring threat. Bates weaved out of it with the help of his defense, though. Huntley’s Zach Model lined out sharply to North’s Ryan Summers at second. The threat was dealt with smoothly in the next at-bat when Jason Peters grounded a ball to Sean Tillmon, the Tigers third baseman. Rather than prevent the oncoming runner from scoring, Tillmon gambled and opted to start the double play, throwing a strike to Summers who fired it to first in the nick of time as North roared back to the dugout without having allowed a run.

And they made them pay for it, too.

In the bottom of the second, Laxner hit Miller on a 1-2 count to lead things off. Soon after that Cameron Kissel smoked a double in between the center and left fielders, but it wasn’t deep enough to bring Miller from first to home, though it did set up the Tigers’ first juicy scoring chance. As prefaced, Plainfield North took advantage of situations like this. Cal Cangilla stepped right up and grounded a ball past the diving Huntley third baseman to plate the game’s first run and an RBI groundout scored North’s second.

The Red Raiders responded to those two runs right away.

Joey Petryniec lined a first-pitch single right through the middle of the diamond to jumpstart his offense. After a flyout, Bates walked Jordan Goldstein and Tigers head coach John Darlington decided to call upon his bullpen for early reinforcements. Nick Cerrato took the mound in relief, inheriting runners on first and second with one out, opposing one of Huntley’s best bats, Kamrin Hoffmann. Hoffmann slugged a fly ball to deep center, pushing Petryniec to third and he scored in the following at-bat on Cerrato's wild pitch that slipped past backstop Greg Budig, halving Huntley’s deficit, 2-1, with the tying run now on second. A 3-0 count to designated hitter Matt Rodriguez had Cerrato and Darlington put him on first with an intentional ball four and Rumachik returned to the box for his second at-bat. The left-handed batter sliced a line drive over Miller in left, but Plainfield’s two-way, multi-sport star tracked it perfectly and his great jump off the barrel allowed him to reel it in on the run, preserving the lead.

According to his head coach, Miller has been a relatively new addition to the team’s outfield. As you might surmise, his athleticism can play anywhere on the field and the start in the outfield saved at least one run.

Laxner began to settle in from here and Huntley was back banging on the door as soon as their next turn at the plate came around. With one out, Model ripped a base hit to center and Peters singled under a diving Tillmon after that to re-energize their team. Cerrato fooled Petryniec in the following at-bat on a breaking ball and it resulted in a slow roller to shortstop Gavin Doyle, who fumbled it to load the bases for the Red Raiders’ lead-off hitter, Michael Talesky.

But – again – an immaculately executed double play bailed North out of the jam. Talesky grounded a hard hit ball right back to Cerrato who fielded it cleanly, fired to Budig at home for one and he comfortably tossed it to first to thwart the threat.

Huntley’s starter had retired nine straight when Tillmon lined a one-out double into the left-center gap. A soft line out to Model put Budig in the batter’s box, but he was quickly sent to first after he was hit by a Laxner breaking ball. Garret Cook then lined a single into right to score Tillmon, but Budig’s courtesy runner was gunned down easily on a trip all the way from first to home after an apparent miscommunication with Darlington on his way around third. The out at home kept Huntley’s spirits high, despite trailing 3-1.

Another inning, another wasted lead-off baserunner for the Red Raiders, though.

A.J. Henkle sparked the top of the sixth with a single into right when Miller reasserted his familiarity with left field. Model lined a ball that tailed away from the pursuing Miller, but his dive kept it from hitting the turf, tallying an enormous first out. Huntley couldn’t get a baserunner past first in the inning and they knew they were down to just three more outs to score two runs – but Miller made sure he'd make that a more difficult chore.

Entering the bottom of the sixth, Huntley had double the hits Plainfield North recorded, 8-4, but it was their fifth hit that wound up being the game’s biggest – literally.

Who else but Miller stepped up and smashed a fly ball into the right-center gap, and it actually had the fuel to leave the yard – it was the first home run by any player in the tournament, in either the 3A or 4A brackets. The insurance run felt critical at the time, but Huntley’s never-say-never attitude made sure it mattered even more.

Huntley had been familiar with staring in the face of elimination before; after all, their conference rivals McHenry had them on the ropes twice in their Regional final game. And yet again, the Red Raiders summoned another huge comeback effort.

With Cerrato still throwing, he plunked Goldstein on an 0-1 count to rile up Huntley’s dugout. Hoffmann followed him up with a double that hugged the first base line and just like that, the tying run was at the plate with no outs – and in this instance, the tying run happened to be their bat with the biggest pop, Rodriguez. Maybe in another ballpark Rodriguez’s hard-hit fly ball would have gave Kissel more trouble in center, but the ball just wasn’t carrying in Joliet. The long fly ball scored a run but the Tigers were happy to trade it for their first out. Rumachik took up a bat next and his soft grounder to short was tough a play for Doyle at short, so his second infield single of the day scored his team’s third run and put the tying run on first.

Cerrato had given all he could in relief and Darlington decided to hand the ball to sophomore Eben Heine. It’s a credit to Heine’s abilities that, as an underclassman, he accrued nearly 35 innings for this varsity team headed into the tournament, and he maintained an ERA well under two.

But there is no preparing for being called on in a moment like this.

Heine was hurled into the fire, too, in a nine-pitch at-bat against Henkle who worked a full count and eventually flew out to right. Henkle passed the fate of Huntley’s season into the bat of Model. Heine got ahead quickly with two expertly placed back-door breaking balls that Model left untouched for strikes. After taking a fastball away, Rumachik stole second to put the tying run in scoring position.

On a 2-2 count, Model tipped a pitch foul off his foot and it dribbled down the first base line, triggering a premature celebration. The game’s fireworks reserved for the final out were set off, adding further to the drama. On the first pitch after the brief delay, the sophomore threw a sharp curveball to Model who chased it down and in, striking out, allowing Plainfield North to celebrate – in earnest this time – winning, 4-3.

The tying run stranded at second base encapsulated Huntley’s shortcomings, as well as Plainfield’s clutch performances, both on the mound and in the field.

Plainfield North finishes their season 29-7-1 and as 4A champions. In the other dugout, head coach Andy Jakubowski and the Red Raiders should only be proud of the way they performed all season long. Huntley finishes the 2018 season 33-7 and State runners-up.

For the Tigers, they came into the day having already clinched the best-ever finish by a Plainfield-area program, but now they get to head back home with some first-place hardware.


  • Brady Miller, OF (Plainfield North, 2018): 1-for-2, BB, HBP, HR, 2 R, RBI

  • Nick Cerrato, RHP (Plainfield North, 2018): 4 IP (relief), 7 H, 1 BB, 2 ER

  • Eben Heine, RHP (Plainfield North, 2020): 0.2 IP, SV, K

  • Joey Petryniec, CF (Huntley, 2018): 2-for-3, R