ROCKTON – Huntley senior shortstop Tyler Castro smacked a solid single to start the top of the ninth inning, snapping a streak of 16 consecutive batters put away by Hononegah left-handed pitcher Ryan Anderson.
With Huntley’s Nos. 3 and 4 batters coming up, the Red Raiders felt good about their chances of breaking through after six stagnant innings offensively.
Instead, Anderson reached into his bag of tricks, first striking out Brandon Hanley, and then retiring cleanup hitter Ryan Kelly with a quick grab on a line drive up the middle. Anderson tossed the ball to first base to retire Castro, who was running on the pitch, for an inning-ending double play.
In the bottom of the ninth, Hononegah got a double from Gabe Roessler with one out and an infield hit up the third-base line from Scott Porter with two outs, bringing up Anderson.
The Indians’ No. 8 hitter came through at the plate, too, hitting a sinking liner just out of the reach of a diving Alex Janke in center field. Roessler ran home for the game-winning run, and second-seeded Hononegah walked off with a 3-2 victory over top-seeded Huntley in the Class 4A sectional championship game.
Huntley (32-3), which finished a win short of the program’s record for most in a season (set in 2018), was trying to win its third sectional title in five seasons under coach Andy Jakubowski.
Hononegah (25-2) captured its first sectional title in program history and advances to face Prospect, a 4-3 winner over Glenbrook South, in the Schaumburg Supersectional at 7:30 p.m. Monday.
“We played hard. We played our hearts out,” said Castro, one of nine seniors on the Raiders. “They played a good ballgame, and sometimes the ball just drops. It happens. [Janke] is very fast. It was a tapper, a little blooper out there. He’s been good for us all year. Unfortunately that one just dropped.”
Anderson did not work many deep counts against Huntley and finished at exactly 100 pitches. He allowed only three hits, striking out eight and walking none in nine innings. Huntley scored two unearned runs in the second to take a 2-0 lead but had only two base runners the rest of the way.
“He changed speeds on us all day, got us out on our front foot,” Jakubowski said. “We couldn’t barrel him up, and when we did barrel him up, it was a line drive right at somebody. He gave us fits. He did a tremendous job. I thought pitching as a whole today was outstanding.”
Huntley scored its two runs in the second, with Kelly and Brayden Bakes each reaching on errors in the infield. Kelly scored on a squeeze bunt by Harout Meyer, and Chase Jetel drove in Bakes with a single. Hanley had a two-out single in the fourth before Anderson went on his run of 16 straight outs.
“I don’t know what you say,” Indians coach Matt Simpson said of Anderson’s performance. “Seven zeros after a tough second inning, and obviously he gets the flare to win it. Defensively, he snares that line drive on a hit-and-run, and it’s probably first and third. He was unbelievable today, just unbelievable.”
Hononegah got an unearned run in the third on an RBI groundout from Noah Goddard. Goddard, who will play at McHenry County College next year, also drove in the Indians’ second run to start the sixth on a long home run to center field against Huntley pitcher Eric Lin.
It was one of the only mistakes made by Lin, who threw 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits. He struck out 10 and walked one intentionally.
“I was in and out of the dugout quick and just hoping we could get something going,” Lin said. “We could have executed a little better ... but it happens. Overall I thought I did OK. Giving up that bomb [home run] [stunk], personally. I know I could have done a lot better today, and I put this one on me.”
With the scored tied at 2 in the seventh, Brayden Bakes just missed a homer on a fly ball that went all the way to the warning track in center field.
Huntley’s Michael Vitellaro entered in relief of Lin in the sixth and gave up a hit in 2 1/3 innings with one strikeout. Andrew Ressler struck out Goddard with two outs in the eighth and then started the ninth. He allowed a run on three hits with two strikeouts.
Lin said he is excited to see what the Raiders can do next year.
“We have a great young team coming in,” Lin said. “They’ll have a great year, too. I definitely will come back and watch a couple of their games.”
Huntley loses nine from this year’s Fox Valley Conference champion. The Raiders also won their fifth straight regional title.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Jakubowski said. “For them to overcome adversity, from not having a season last year, to Zoom all school year and being in and being out, just their resiliency, and coming out and giving us everything they had, they were awesome.”