4A McHenry Sectional: Cary fends off comeback; Hampshire wins marathon


By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

GAME 1: Cary-grove vs. huntley

McHENRY, Ill. – In a sloppy contest that featured six errors – three from each team – the Cary-Grove Trojans clung to the lead they had for most of the game to defeat last year’s 4A runners-up, Huntley, in the sectional semis, 5-4.

Cary called on its ace, and one of the nation’s best prep prospects, Quinn Priester, to deal with the ranked Red Raiders. Looking solely at Priester’s final line, you might not assume that he was his typical dominant self, but Priester didn’t put himself in trouble until the very end of the ballgame.

His stuff was as overwhelming as ever – a fastball sitting in the 91-94 mph for the duration of his six-plus innings of work, with a biting curveball that he can coax batters into chasing, or drop into the zone for strikes. His first time through Huntley’s order, he smoothed over a walk and a double.

Meanwhile, the Trojans’ bats threatened in the second frame and broke through in the third, with the top of their order up to bat. Jack Thompson and Ryan Weaver started things off with a single and a walk, and Priester helped himself out by lining a single to left to score the game’s first run. Later in the inning, with runners on second and third, Bobby Jannusch delivered a clutch two-out, two-run single to center to give Priester and the Trojans a 3-0 lead. And a lead that size with Priester on the mound is a daunting one for the opposition.

After junior Evan Tocmo double to the right-center gap with two outs in the bottom of that third inning, Priester reenergized his team by striking out his third batter of the game, stranding Tocmo at second.

An error opened the top of the fourth, followed by a Jacob Duncan single, and the Trojans were off and running again. Just when it looked like Huntley might sneak away without allowing a run, two consecutive errors by the Red Raiders infield helped plate two more Cary runs, upping the lead to 5-0.

But the Trojans handed those two runs right back.

Despite allowing just one hit in the half-inning, Priester couldn’t pitch around the two infield errors allowed by his defense and Huntley got two back, helping them stay within reach.

Priester struck out five batters in the fifth and sixth frames, and it looked like he was going to have enough slack in his pitch count to go the distance when he came back out for the seventh. Huntley has developed a hard-nosed, resilient reputation and they made sure to remind everyone of that when they were on the ropes, with one out remaining in their spring.

Tocmo earned a two-out walk to spark a flame that nearly erupted into a full-blown comeback for the Red Raiders. Zach Model’s infield single was followed by Michael Talesky’s RBI single to left, which put the tying run on second and pushed Priester out of the ballgame. Lefty reliever Ethan Estes came on in a pressure-packed situation and walked the first batter he faced to load the bases. He then hit Kyle Maurer to score Huntley’s fourth run, and it felt like the Red Raiders were on the brink of robbing Cary of the sectional semis victory. In stepped Jackson Broom, who had been 0-for-3 against Priester but took some smart hacks in his previous three at-bats. Estes honed himself in, however, spinning breaking ball after breaking ball to Broom, getting him to chase strike three in the dirt, ending the ballgame.

For Huntley, this special 2019 class ends things sooner than they would have wanted, but this group still has a lot to be proud of – and a handful are sticking together to play their ball next fall at nearby McHenry County JC.

As for Cary, their season continues this Saturday against Hampshire, with the sectional title on the line in McHenry.

GAME HIGHLIGHTS

+ RHP Quinn Priester, Cary-Grove: 6.2 IP, 4 R (2 ER), 4 H, 2 BB, 11 K; 2-for-4, RBI
+ OF Bobby Jannusch, Cary-Grove: 2-for-3, 2 RBI
+ OF Evan Tocmo, Huntley: 1-for-3, 2B, BB, R

GAME TWO: HAMPSHIRE VS. BARRINGTON

McHENRY, Ill. – In the second game of the day at Petersen Park in McHenry, home of the 4A McHenry Sectional, Hampshire and Barrington were locked into a pitcher’s duel that was totally unlike the first game of the afternoon.

In an error-free ballgame, the Whip-Purs and Broncos traded big-time defensive plays with one another and prime pitching performances and made the playoff game feel like a heavyweight bout between two fighters who knew each other well. Only, these two were meeting for the first time all spring.

Hampshire sent its ace Matt Jachec to the mound, a senior Indiana State commit, and it was clear early on that he was feeling it. But the same can be said about Barrington starter R.J. Nowicki, a junior lefty with a Northern Illinois commitment. Neither gave their opposition any leeway, and their scoreless skirmish last until extras and beyond.

The first four innings flew by. Jachec was working in rhythm and relied on his smooth defenders behind him to make all the plays, namely junior shortstop Gavin Kriegel, who particularly made a couple of tricky grounders look easy.

Nowicki on the other hand was simply dominating the Whip-Pur bats, and had struck out six straight at one point, deceiving hitters with an unassuming 77-80 mph running fastball and an effective slider-changeup mix.

Hampshire produced the first real threat of the game in the top of the fifth when Kriegel singled to center to start the frame. A double play in the next at-bat looked like it would end the rally abruptly, but Jon Mroz doubled to deep right-center to restart things, but was stranded at second base. The Whip-Purs received another double in the next inning, this time off Brady Young’s bat, but couldn’t score him either.

Thankfully, Hampshire’s starter had completely settled in by this point. Barrington wasn’t even sniffing second base with Jachec on the mound, and he had no signs of slowing down, especially with the pitch count working in his favor.

Still scoreless in the top of the seventh, Jachec thought he just about ended things himself when he launched a ball deep into the night. He thought he got all of it, and so did everyone else frankly, but the ball banged off the top of the fence in left and he settled for a lead-off double Three straight innings featured a Hampshire double, yet none ever found their way home.

Barrington’s biggest threat to score of the ballgame came in the bottom of the seventh. Jachec’s first walk and hit by pitch put runners on first and second with one down. John Seagrist grounded ball to second and Hampshire attempted to turn the 4-6-3 double play, but Seagrist beat the ball to first. Meanwhile, Clark Elliott motored around third and attempted to nab home but was cut down sliding in. The dramatic and unlikely 4-6-3-2 double play ended the inning and sent us to extras.

The lack of errors and strike-throwing abilities both starters had been demonstrating allowed the two to pitch into the eighth. Nowicki got the first couple outs in the eighth but his pitch count forced him to exit the game there. He finished with a spotless line of 7.2 innings of work, allowing no runs on four hits, one walk, and he struck out nine. He handed the game over to sophomore Rayth Petersen to continue on, who immediately recorded the third out.

Both Jachec and Petersen worked a quick and mostly quiet ninth and Petersen got through the 10th with relative ease. Hampshire decided to roll Jachec back out to the mound for the 10th, too. With so few bumps in throughout the start, Jachec hardly looked fazed in his 10th trip back to the mound. He was still sitting in the 85-87 mph range, which is virtually where he had lived all game long. He tallied two quick outs but allowed a Seagrist single and hit a batter to put himself in a jam with the walk-off run on second. But, again, Jachec was built for this moment it felt like, and he emphatically struck out the third out of the inning to keep the game scoreless.

That seemed to ignite the Whip-Pur offense, too.

Young started the inning with a bunt single but Petersen secured back-to-back outs to hamper Hampshire’s threat. They opted to intentionally walk Jachec which set the table for Kriegel, who had played such an important role on defense all evening. He tomahawked a 1-2 fastball to deep left field, which allowed both baserunners to score, breaking the scoreless tie at last. Caden Pyszka doubled him home right after that, which sent Hampshire into a 3-0 lead.

Sophomore Dylan Petrey relieved Jachec to start the bottom of the 11th and swiftly K’d the side in order to give Hampshire the sectional semis victory.

The Whip-Purs will take on Cary next on Saturday. They lost the regular season series to the Trojans, two games to one, though all three contests were decided by two runs or fewer.

For Barrington, with another successful 30-win season in the books, this 2019 campaign comes to a close.

GAME HIGHLIGHTS

+ RHP Matt Jachec, Hampshire: 10 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 1 BB, 7 K
+ SS Gavin Kriegel, Hampshire: 2-for-5, 2B, 2 RBI, R
+ OF Brady Young, Hampshire: 2-for-4, R
+ LHP R.J. Nowicki, Barrington: 7.2 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 9 K

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