Softball: Huntley cruises past FVC foe McHenry for 9th straight IHSA regional title

Red Raiders turn 14 hits in 17 runs

Huntley players pose with their plaque after beating McHenry, 17-1, on Thursday to win the Class 4A Larkin Regional championship in Elgin.

ELGIN – Huntley on Thursday afternoon appreciated the moment after primarily focusing on the big picture for much of the softball season.

Yes, the Red Raiders had just beaten Fox Valley Conference rival McHenry 17-1 in four innings to win the Class 4A Larkin Regional championship. But Huntley also had won its ninth straight regional title.

The main goal is to compete for a state championship, but the Red Raiders know the importance of celebrating the victories along the way.

“We do have a lot coming in the future, but we have to enjoy every small moment,” Huntley senior first baseman Meghan Ryan said. “That’s what makes the sport so fun.”

Putting on an offensive clinic also doesn’t hurt. Huntley (28-9) dominated right from the start when it scored seven runs in the first inning, three in the second and seven in the third to put the game away.

Ryan got the scoring started when she drove in a run off a single to center field. Sophomore Lyla Ginczycki brought in a run on a single, and another came in on an error on the throw home. Junior Ava McFadden hit a two-run home run, and senior Ellie Winter made it 7-0 with a single to center field.

Ryan and Winter each knocked in three runs, and Ginczycki, McFadden, junior Alyssa Bonner and junior Sadie Svendsen each drove in two. Bonner also hit a home run.

Ryan said the previous two wins Huntley had over McHenry this season helped them prepare for Thursday’s regional. But it also helps to have a lineup where anyone can step up at any time.

“Everyone rubs off each other’s energy,” Ryan said. “It really doesn’t matter where you are in the lineup for us.”

Huntley junior starter Gretchen Huber set the tone from the start when she struck out the side in the top of the first inning. She escaped a jam where the Warriors’ had runners on first and third in the third inning and only allowed one earned run, struck out five batters over four innings, gave up five hits and one walk along the way.

Huber drew upon her past start against the Warriors to know where they like to hit at certain spots. She knew the importance of setting the tone early.

“I knew how that first inning went was going to have a big impact on the game,” Huber said.

McHenry (18-11) didn’t stop battling despite the large deficit. A day after senior Vanessa Buske hit a walk-off grand slam to reach Thursday’s final, Warriors junior Tatum Kornfield brought in her team’s lone run in the fourth on a ground ball to second base.

“We do have a lot coming in the future, but we have to enjoy every small moment. That’s what makes the sport so fun.”

—  Meghan Ryan, Huntley senior first baseman

Warriors coach Mikaela Mitsch said that fight is what she’ll remember the most about this season’s team.

“It’s something in a softball player that makes them tick and do something like that,” Mitsch said. “That’s definitely the heart of the Warrior.”

The Red Raiders will play either Hampshire or Auburn on Tuesday in the Class 4A Barrington Sectional. Regardless of who they play, Thursday’s final was a good reminder of how close they are to accomplishing their big-picture goals.

“Our mindset is if we play our style of softball,” Huntley coach Mark Petryniec said, “we’ll be competitive with anyone.”

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