No. 20 Prairie Ridge earns share of FVC crown with gritty win in Cary

By Andy Sroka
Staff Writer

CARY, Ill. – Prairie Ridge needed a win over Cary-Grove, against one of the country’s best pitchers, in order to earn a share of the Fox Valley Conference title with Huntley and the Wolves did just that.

The Wolves sent one of their best to the mound, too: senior righty Ben Harris (Brewton-Parker commit). Pitching in front a huge crowd of scouts, all there to see his counterpart, Harris caught a little attention himself. He came out firing in the top of the first, sitting 90-91 mph, pitching over a single in the opening frame. Despite the game being in Cary, PR operated as the home team as the rain in the area earlier in the day made the Wolves’ home field unplayable.

For Cary, they called on their ace, and a prospect who might be the first prep pitcher called in June’s MLB Draft: Quinn Priester (Texas Christian). The athletic righty came into the spring as the top arm in the Midwest, but he’s only asserted himself further on the national scene. The stuff he brought with him on the warmest day of the spring season looked and felt first-round caliber. In Priester’s first inning, winding up amidst a sea of onlooking radar guns, he sat in the 92-95 mph range, touching 96 mph on a couple of pitches. He punched out the first two batters he faced with the help of his sharp swing-and-miss breaking ball, but Prairie Ridge was taking smart hacks and making the top prospect earn it.

Harris actually worked a walk in the inning from the plate, fouling off a couple of pitches and taking some close misses. Jared Lindquist barreled a ball to center which was caught for the third out of the inning, but the line-drive out and walk in the first frame mustered PR’s dugout and energized the electric atmosphere.

After a pretty quiet second, Priester came to the plate with one out and a runner on first in the top of the third. He smacked a hard groundball to second baseman Jacob Reichert who ranged to his left, neatly corralled the ball, and tossed it to shortstop Michael Patterson (2019, North Central College) who fired it to first to complete the nifty inning-ending double play. The double play fueled the Wolves and they looked eager to get back in the batter’s box.

Reichert took a four-pitch walk to open the bottom of the third and he wound up beating out an attempted force play at second on a grounder in the infield to put runners on second and third, nobody out. Then, lead-off hitter Dominic Listi (2019, North Central College) squared for a sacrifice bunt and laid a ball down right in front of home, but a fumble allowed Listi to reach first safely, and all of a sudden the Wolves looked poised to strike first.

With the bases loaded and no outs, Priester found himself in a real jam when Keegan Garis stepped up to the plate. On a 1-0 count, Garis flared a soft single into shallow center which allowed the game’s first run to score. With the threat still very much alive, Priester earned a strikeout followed by a force-out at home to give Cary a light at the end of the tunnel. Another strikeout, his fifth by this point, ended the inning but a passed ball in the at-bat plated the Wolves’ second run.

For Harris, he was rolling. He set down eight in a row at one point and Cary had no counter for him. Meanwhile, PR kept chipping away at Priester, grinding out at-bats.

In the fifth, Prairie Ridge struck again. Garis singled to center again to spark the Wolves’ offense with one out. After a strikeout, the Trojans committed back-to-back errors in the infield after a dropped third strike put another runner on, and PR added two more to their lead to make it 4-0.

After five innings of labor, Priester’s day was done. Harris allowed his first hit since the first frame in the sixth inning, but he pitched right over it to keep his team in front by four runs. And in the seventh, Harris headed back to the rubber to finish what he started and coaxed three quick outs out of Cary to secure the tremendous win, and one that allows the Wolves to call themselves FVC champs.

For Cary, they have one more game on the regular season schedule, away at Burlington Central on Friday. As for the newly crowned conference champs Prairie Ridge, they wrap up their regular season with a 25-9 record, 18-6 inside the FVC, and should be considered are among the favorites to head to Joliet in the 3A class.


+ RHP Ben Harris, Prairie Ridge: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 2 HBP, 0 R, 8 K
+ RHP Quinn Priester, Cary-Grove: 5 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 4 R (1 ER), 9 K
+ OF Keegan Garis, Prairie Ridge: 2-for-4, R, RBI