MAPLE PARK – The Kaneland Knights’ Tyler Conklin and the Hampshire Whip-Purs’ Dylan Petrey each went into the fifth inning with no-hitters intact. Conklin kept his no-hitter one inning longer, but Petrey and the Whips got the 1-0 victory to win a Class 3A regional championship.
“It was crazy,” Petrey said. “I’ve never been in a game like that. At least someone has a hit, not no-hitters toward the sixth inning.”
Petrey allowed only three Kaneland base runners on two hits and a hit batter to go along with his nine strikeouts in his complete-game shutout.
On the losing side, Tyler Conklin pitched a gem of his own. He went the distance and allowed one run on four hits with 10 strikeouts and two walks.
“It’s obviously not easy to take, to swallow that pill, especially on our home field,” Conklin said. “I did all I could. We just couldn’t execute at the plate. It’s just baseball at the end of the day.”
Hampshire (17-16) put up the game’s only run in the sixth inning. Designated hitter Henry Birt, batting in the ninth spot in the order, laced a single to break up the no-hitter for Conklin. After a sacrifice bunt by leadoff batter Daniel Rodriguez put Birt at second, Hampshire catcher Austin Leonard roped a two-out single to center field. Birt came sliding home, beating the throw from the outfield for the game-winner.
“Whoever scores first, you put that pressure on, especially with those two guys on the mound,” Hampshire coach Frank Simoncelli said. “Both of them were dominating in their own way. Knowing Dylan (Petrey) was in the zone, having that one run felt like five runs.”
The Knights (18-6) had a chance to even the game in the bottom half of the sixth inning. Shortstop Dylan Conklin smacked a double down the left-field line with only one out. The Knights couldn’t drive him home, as the next two batters flew out to right and struck out.
“We thought we would have an answer, but it just didn’t come,” Kaneland coach Brian Aversa said. “We had a guy in position to do that, and unfortunately we just didn’t get it done. That’s on us. We have to do a better job.”
In the Knights’ final chance to score in the bottom of the seventh, Petrey struck out the side to close out the victory.
The Knights and Whips combined for 35 runs in their regional semifinal games last week. The Knights scored 18 runs, and the Whips scored 17.
Petrey struck out the last three batters on curv balls, which he used as his main pitch to foil the Knights’ hitters all game.
“[The breaking balls] were my go-to pitches,” Petrey said. “The curveball was my go-to pitch. The fastball wasn’t really working, so it was a set-up pitch. Throw the fastball out and then start the curveball in.”
Hampshire will face Geneseo in a sectional semifinal at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Geneseo.