These pictures were taken at the Cardinals/Dodgers game on July 25. The Cards won 3-2 in 12 innings.
Nachos Grande with Pulled Pork. Mmmmmm.
The Rockets and Pretzels face the flag for the National Anthem.
Burlington Central claimed the Class 3A Sycamore sectional championship on Saturday – the program’s first sectional title – thanks in large part to its not-so-secret weapon, the electrifying base running of Ray Hunnicutt.
The senior center fielder’s lead-off walk and two subsequent stolen bases sparked the Rockets’ three-run rally in the sixth inning of their 4-2 victory over Freeport.
With the Rockets trailing 2-1, Hunnicutt led off the frame with a walk. He quickly stole second base, and then after Blake Alexander flew out to deep center field, the senior successfully took off for third with Michael Scott at the plate. Because of Hunnicutt’s well-timed jumps, neither steal attempt drew a throw from Pretzels catcher Jack Lehnherr.
“I knew I was going the whole time. I knew we had to score one,” Hunnicutt said. “I thought I might as well try, it’s our last game potentially, so might as well go for it. And it worked out.”
The steals put Hunnicutt in position to score the game-tying run one batter later when Riley Jensen hit a ground ball up the middle that was misplayed by Pretzels second baseman Tyler Olson.
Kevin Zasada then put the Rockets up 3-2 with an RBI single to left that drove in Scott. Reed Hunnicutt, Ray’s brother, provided the Rockets’ an insurance run with a sacrifice fly that drove in Jensen and put Burlington Central up 4-2.
Rockets coach Kyle Nelson said that Hunnicutt, who is now a perfect 31-for-31 in steal attempts, possesses more than just great speed.
“He’s a fast kid, but there’s a lot of fast kids who don’t necessarily steal bases they way he does,” Nelson said. “He’s getting good jumps on pitchers, he’s getting good reads. And he’s doing a great job on the base paths.”
The Rockets jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead when Tanner Scott drove in Zach Ranney with a double to left field in the first inning.
The Pretzels were able to capture the lead by taking advantage of Rockets misplays. In the second inning, an infield error allowed Evan Schrader to score and tie the game at 1-1.
Consecutive mistakes by Rockets pitcher Riley Jensen in the fourth inning allowed Adam Werntz to reach home. A balk advanced Werntz to third base, and then a wild pitch allowed the junior first baseman to score.
Other than that, Jensen was very effective in his seven innings on the mound for the Rockets. The senior picked up the victory after giving up one earned run and four hits while striking out seven and walking one.
Burlington Central was able to stop to the underdog run of Freeport (17-20), who was seeded No. 4 out of four teams in the regional it hosted.
The Pretzels pulled off three upsets to earn a chance at playing for a sectional title. Coach Roger Fegan hopes the Pretzels’ first appearance in a sectional championship game in 33 years was a sign of things to come, not an aberration.
“It was a lot of fun. I told our seniors, hopefully ten years from now, you’ll come back and we’ll be winning regionals and sectionals all the time, and it was something you helped develop and helped start,” Fegan said.
Being part of the first team in school history to win a sectional title nearly left Hunnicutt speechless.
“I don’t even know how to talk about it. Nobody’s ever done it, and it feels great,” Hunnicutt said. “All these guys have grown up together, to win this in our last year, it’s fantastic.”
Burlington Central (28-10) will face LaSalle-Peru at 7 p.m. Monday in the Augustana College super-sectional.
I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Elgin Courier and yourseason.com. It appears here.
The Pretzels walk off the field after the Rockets ended their underdog run.
Zach Ranney faces a Prairie Ridge batter during Saturday morning’s game.
Burlington Central made Prairie Ridge pay for its mistakes in Saturday morning’s 3A Sycamore Sectional semifinal. The Rockets scored four unearned runs on their way to an 8-3 victory.
The Rockets jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second inning thanks to two Wolves errors. Catcher Matt Krenz’s bad throw on an attempted double play brought home Blake Alexander, while pitcher Mike Reitcheck’s errant pick-off attempt to first base allowed Michael Scott to score. Later in the inning, an RBI single by Zach Ranney scored Riley Jensen, who reached base on Krenz’s error.
“That’s what we’ve done all year. We’ve made mistakes early and but they still keep battling, and they keep fighting,” Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro said. “There’s been a lot of games this year where we’ve come back and won in those situations. These guys have done a nice job on that this year, today we came up a little bit short.”
The Wolves did show some fight, and were within 4-2 going into the seventh inning, but more mistakes allowed the Rockets to pull away.
The Wolves committed one error and allowed a run to score on a passed ball as the Rockets scored four runs to take an 8-2 lead. Burlington Central (27-10) got a two-run double from Kevin Zasada and an RBI single from Bryan Cynova in the inning.
Ranney picked up the victory after allowing three runs and nine hits while striking out five and walking two over seven innings. The right-handed senior had to work out of a few late inning jams. The Wolves’ had their lead-off men reach base in both the fifth and sixth innings, but were unable score both times.
“I was just trying to keep my composure. Coach always tells us that defense can pick you up, so I’ve always got to think of that,” Ranney said. “I had to push through it, and hoped the defense picked me up”
Prairie Ridge’s attempt at a sixth inning rally was doomed by a failed squeeze attempt. With runners at first and third with one out and Brad Schillinger at the plate with a 2-0 count, Pecoraro called for the squeeze. However, Schillinger’s bunt attempt was thwarted by a high and tight fastball by Ranney. The senior second baseman was unable to make contact, and Bryan Klendworth was easily caught trying to reach home.
“Hits were hard to come by today, and I was just trying to get something going,” Pecoraro said. “The stuff we did today, bunting wise, trying to squeeze, we’ve done it all season long. We’re not going to change now.”
Alexander led the Rockets on offense, going 3-for-4 with two singles and a solo home run in the third inning that cleared the left-center field fence with ease.
I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Elgin Courier and yourseason.com. It appears here.
The Rockets congregate in left field after their victory on Saturday.
Naperville North softball entered uncharted territory by winning Wednesday’s Class 4A East Aurora Sectional semifinal against Plainfield East.
Behind a strong outing from pitcher Kathleen Hahne and a two-run homer by Tara Degl’lnnocenti, the Huskies will make their first appearance in a sectional final after knocking off the Bengals 5-2 at Phillips Park in Aurora.
Naperville North, the No. 6 seed in the East Aurora sectional, will face No. 4 seed Plainfield Central at 11 a.m. Saturday in the sectional final.
“I don’t know what Saturday will be like, it’s going to be brand new for Huskies softball,” Naperville North coach Jerry Kedziora said.
“We’ve got a good pitcher right now, we’ve got a team that’s playing really good defense. And some timely hitting too. It’s pretty exciting — our chances might not set up ever as good as they are right now,” he added.
Hahne picked up the victory after giving up two runs and ten hits and striking out three batters over seven innings.
The senior showed some early-game nerves, giving up two runs on six hits during her first two innings in the circle. However, Hahne settled down from that point forward, surrendering no runs and just four singles the rest of the way.
“I always get really nervous for a game. It takes me a few batters to get into my own and work my pitches,” Hahne said.
Degl’lnnocenti gave the Huskies a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the first inning with a line-drive, two-run homer to left field.
An RBI single by Bengals shortstop Nina Maggio tied the game at 2-2 in the second inning, but the Huskies retook the lead in the third. Caitlyn Warren came home on an RBI groundout by Kailee Budicin, giving Naperville North a 3-2 advantage they wouldn’t relinquish.
The Huskies added two insurance runs in the fifth inning, going up 5-2 on an RBI triple by Warren and a run-scoring fielder’s choice by Budicin.
“We knew that we had to come out and hit. We knew that they were going to be gunning for us, and everyone did a great job,” Degl’lnnocenti said. “It took a team effort, and we got it done.”
Hahne was assisted by a strong defensive performance from her teammates. The Huskies committed only one error and made a few sterling defensive plays, including a momentum-changing double play in the fourth inning.
With one out and a runner on first base, Degl’lnnocenti cleanly fielded a hard-hit ground ball off the bat of Maggio and threw to shortstop Alexis Solak for the force out. First baseman Rachel Martin barely kept her foot on the bag as she made a fantastic stretch to collect Solak’s throw and complete the double play.
After that play, Hahne gave up just one more hit and the Huskies outscored the Bengals 2-0.
“To be able to turn a 4-6-3 like that, and those girls making every play possible from the third inning on, it’s a tremendous confidence boost,” Kedziora said. “These girls should now know that they can go out and compete against anybody.”
Plainfield East (22-12) was led on offense by No. 9 hitter Jessica Rio, who went 3-for-3 with three singles. Rio attempted to score on a single by Maggio in the second inning, but was thrown out at home by Huskies left fielder Stephanie Tobin.
Naperville North (24-12) will attempt to earn its first sectional title plaque when they face Plainfield Central on Saturday. The Wildcats advanced to the finals by defeating Neuqua Valley 2-1 on Wednesday.
“We know that we’re going to have our hands filled with Plainfield Central,” Kedziora said. “If we just go head out and play our game, maybe we can get something.”
I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Naperville Sun and yourseason.com. It appears here.
Both teams line up for starting lineup introductions before Tuesday’s game.
Benet held its opponents scoreless the first 285 minutes of the playoffs. 15 more minutes and the Redwings would have clinched a spot in 2A state semifinals.
The Redwings outscored their opponents 24-0 in their first three games, and held a 1-0 lead over St. Francis more than halfway through Tuesday’s 2A supersectional game played at Benedictine University.
But with 15:02 left in the second half, Spartans forward Amanda Gaggioli broke through the Redwing defense, scoring a goal to tie the game at 1-1. The game went to penalty kicks after the score remained tied through the duration of regulation and four ten-minute overtime periods. There, St. Francis outscored Benet 4-2 to earn a berth in the state semifinals.
“We’re not the best penalty kick team in the history of mankind,” Benet coach Bob Gros said. “We’ve worked on it. I’ve tried everything under the sun. But there’s so much psychology involved. There’s a little bit of luck too.”
Sydney Fox’s successful penalty kick sent St. Francis (22-3) to its first ever appearance in the state semifinals. Taylor Bucaro, Kaitlin Bucaro and Gaggioli also made penalty kicks for the Spartans.
“It feels great, it really does. I feel like this isn’t really real right now, but it’s great,” said Gaggioli
The Redwings dominated possession in the first half and outshot the Spartans 10-4 over the first 40 minutes. With 8:54 left in the first half, Jessica Smetana scored after receiving a great pass from Amanda Kaiser. The senior’s shot went off the far post and into the back of the net, putting the Redwings up 1-0.
The momentum shifted in the second half. The Spartans started to play more aggressively and dominated possession of the ball. With just over 15 minutes left in the second half, St. Francis snapped Benet’s 285 minute playoff scoreless streak when Gaggioli scored from 10 yards out after receiving a feed from Kaitlin Bucaro.
“I just saw the pass coming in, and my teammate (Fox) just let it go through her legs. I was open and just put it in,” Gaggioli said.
Worn down by temperatures in the mid-80s, both teams had trouble generating anything in the four overtime periods. St. Francis outshot Benet 5-2 over the last 40 minutes, and the Redwings didn’t get off a shot attempt over the last two overtimes.
Despite being outshot, Gros felt the Redwings had the better chances in overtime.
“In terms of more consistent pressure, I think in the last 40 minutes we had a little bit of an advantage there,” Gros said. “We just couldn’t get it in. You just have one of those days, and it doesn’t pay off.”
Benet finishes the season 18-5-3. The Redwings came into Tuesday’s game unbeaten in their previous 17 games.
St. Francis will play St. Viator at 11 a.m. Friday in the first of two 2A semifinals at North Central College in Naperville. Glenwood will face U. High of Normal in the second semifinal.
I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Naperville Sun and yourseason.com. It appears here.
St. Francis players celebrate with their friends and family after the game.
The view from the press box at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva, IL
The Kane County Cougars got a dramatic, game-tying home run from Orlando Calixte in the ninth inning, but the Beloit Snappers outlasted the Cougars, scoring six runs in the 12th inning to clinch a 15-9 victory Monday at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark.
The Snappers’ outburst in the final inning came off first baseman turned pitcher Dean Espy. The right-handed Espy (0-1) entered the game as a pinch runner in the ninth and played first base for two innings before taking the mound in the 12th. It was his first time pitching in the minor leagues.
“We needed to save some pitching for tomorrow,” Cougars manager Brian Buchanan said. “When they took the lead, we took some guys out early because we needed them for tomorrow. Then we ended up tying it up in the ninth.”
Matt Koch gave the Snappers a 10-9 lead in the 12th with an RBI double that drove in Jhon Goncalves. After an RBI single by Tyler Grimes and a sacrifice fly by Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano capped off the scoring with a three-run homer that bounced off the video board in left-center field.
The Snappers (30-21) blew three leads in the first nine innings, including the 9-7 advantage they held going into the ninth.
After Michael Antonio led off the bottom of the ninth for the Cougars with a double to left center field, Calixte launched a game-tying, two-run homer to tie the game at 9-9. It was the 20-year-old shortstop’s third home run in the last five games.
“He’s getting good pitches to hit, and he’s hitting them,” Buchanan said. “We’re working with him, he needs to stay under control a little bit, and he’s been doing that lately.”
The Cougars (27-24) had a great chance to end the game later in the ninth after an error by Sano, the Snappers’ third baseman, allowed Jorge Bonifacio to bat with the bases loaded and two outs. But the 18-year-old right fielder struck out, sending the game into extra innings.
The Cougars offense took advantage of perfect hitting conditions — temperatures in the 90s and winds blowing out — by racking up 21 hits. All nine starters picked up a hit and seven had two or more. Catcher Kenny Swab had three hits, while Antonio and Calixte each had four.
“Hitting is contagious. You see some of the other guys up there swinging the bat really well and you’re itching for your opportunity to get up there,” Swab said. “The ball was just jumping off the bat today.”
Losing two of the first three games in this series, Kane County has fallen three games behind second-place Beloit. The Cougars will try to split the four-game series tomorrow at 11 a.m with right-hander Kellen Moen (2-2) on the mound.
I wrote this story for the Aurora Beacon. It appears here.
Twins 3B Miguel Sano: 1-7, HR, 3 RBI; Crushed a three-run homer in the 12th inning off a position player posing as a pitcher. Made what could have been a devastating error in the 9th inning (19th error of season). Booted a seemingly routine grounder with two outs, extended the game for Jorge Bonifacio to bat with the bases loaded. Great swing, physically (6’3″, 240 lbs) stands out among peers.
Royals RF Jorge Bonifacio: 2-7, 2 singles, run, 4 Ks; Struck out with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning. Left seven men on base over his seven ABs. Got first hit of series in third inning (was 0-for-9 going into at-bat). Batting .312, second on team.
Naperville Central celebrates at home plate after winning a regional title.
Last year, Naperville Central’s season ended with a 3-1 loss to Downers Grove South in a regional final. The Redhawks finally got revenge on Saturday, knocking off the Mustangs 5-1 in the Downers Grove South regional final.
“It was great. They beat us last year. We needed to beat them this year, we couldn’t let that happen twice,” Redhawks second baseman Jeff Lucas said.
Naperville Central (25-12) was led by pitcher Jim Nashert, who turned in an all-around clutch performance. The right-handed junior surrendered no earned runs while allowing four hits and three walks in seven innings of work. Nashert also helped out on offense, driving in two runs and scoring another.
“Contributing at the plate gives me confidence on the mound,” Nashert said. “After I got my first hit, I felt more confident out on the mound and it was pretty smooth sailing from there, it was fun.”
Naperville Central took advantage of four Downers South errors to score its first three runs.
The Redhawks took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when an infield error allowed Nashert to score.
After Mustangs left fielder Zach Taylor tied the game at 1-1 with an RBI single in the fourth inning, the Redhawks scored two more unearned runs in the fifth inning to retake the lead.
Nashert’s RBI groundout drove in Lucas to put the Redhawks up 2-1. Two batters later, Naperville Central went up 3-1 when Kevin Linne – who reached base on an error – scored on another infield error.
The Redhawks scored two insurance runs in the seventh inning, going up 5-1 on a sacrifice fly by Nashert and an RBI single by Ross Murphy.
Downers South (24-13) coach Darren Orel said his team just couldn’t afford to make that many mistakes.
“They’re a great team, you give them extra outs and they’re going to take advantage of it,” Orel said.
Mustangs pitcher Brian Glowicki gave up just two earned runs and seven hits while striking out four and walking none in seven innings on the mound.
Naperville Central got a boost from the bottom of its batting order. Lucas and Linne, the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters in the Redhawks lineup, combined for three hits and four runs scored.
“Jeff Lucas came up huge today, he’s been batting for the last couple weeks,” Redhawks coach Mike Stock said. “And Kevin Linne, we put him in right field for defensive purposes, but he’s a battler at the plate too, and he put the bat on the ball, and made them make some plays.”
Naperville Central, the No. 5 seed in the Romeoville sectional, moves on to face No. 1 seed Plainfield North at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in a sectional semifinal.
Lucas believes the Redhawks have the talent to make a deep run in the playoffs.
“When we play like this, we’re unstoppable,” Lucas said. “When we get hits, and pitch like (Nashert) was pitching today, we can beat anybody.”
I wrote this story for the Chicago Sun-Times, Naperville Sun and yourseason.com.
The Redhawks and Mustangs shake hands after Saturday’s game. It appears here.