HUNTLEY – Pitcher Drew Ressler entered with the bases loaded in the sixth inning and Huntley clinging to a two-run lead.
Ressler got ahead of Mundelein’s Tommy Stricklin and then let out a scream when he escaped the jam with a strikeout.
“To do that against a team like that, it’s really fun,” Ressler said.
The sophomore struck out two more in the seventh to close the door and secure a 9-6 victory for the Red Raiders on Wednesday in a Class 4A sectional semifinal.
Huntley (32-2) will face Hononegah in the sectional final at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Hononegah. The Indians defeated Lake Zurich, 7-4, on Wednesday in the sectional’s other semifinal.
The Red Raiders started strong by putting up one run in the first inning on an RBI groundout by Brandon Hanley after a Tyler Castro triple.
Huntley then blew the game open with four runs in the second inning. Ryan Bakes supplied a two-out bases-loaded double to drive in Alex Janke and Brayden Bakes (3 for 4, two doubles), and Castro followed with another two-run double to score Chase Jetel and Bakes for a 5-0 lead.
“Getting the big four-run spot in the second inning kind of eased our tension, and then they started to come back a bit, but we added and added,” Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said. “That’s what we always try to say: If they score, we’ve got to bounce back.”
Huntley did just that in the third inning with one run after Mundelein scored twice in the top half of the inning. The Raiders added two more for an 8-2 lead on a solo home run from Kelly and an RBI double from Brayden Bakes – all coming with two outs.
“I knew that I hit it pretty hard,” Kelly said of his homer. “I didn’t think it would go over because I hit it on such on a line, but when it went over, it was a great feeling.”
Mundelein (23-5-1), however, didn’t go away quietly. The Mustangs scored two runs apiece in the fifth and sixth innings to get within 8-6 when Jakubowski turned to Ressler to get the Red Raiders out of trouble.
“I thought all three of our pitchers did a great job of battling,” Jakubowski said. “We came up with a lot of timely hits. I thought, execution wise, this was probably our best day.”
Huntley added an insurance run in the seventh on Ryan Quinlan’s double scoring Janke, who had reached on an error.
“I think we had the edge. We won every single inning besides maybe one, and that’s what we do,” Kelly said. “Win every inning, one at a time.”
Mundelein leadoff hitter Matthew Peterson went 4 for 4 with a double, triple, two RBIs and three runs scored. Stricklin had two hits, and Mark Skarzynski scored twice.
After the loss, Mundelein coach Randy Lerner praised his 13 seniors for their continued efforts and hard work all season.
“To not be able to have them for a junior season took the life out of me,” Lerner said. “For them to be able to keep working to improve to get to where they’re at, they loved coming to practice every day, it’s going to be hard to say goodbye.”