Prairie Ridge baseball coach Glen Pecoraro started the Wolves’ program in 1998 and has been the boss for 21 of the school’s 24 seasons.
Pecoraro’s team was never closer to winning a state title than this season. The Wolves came up just short, 8-7, in the Class 3A Baseball State Tournament championship game, a contest they led, 6-0, after two innings.
Still, it was a magical run with plenty of drama. Prairie Ridge won four consecutive one-run games to reach the title game. In their semifinal, the Wolves rallied for three runs in the bottom of the seventh for a 4-3 win over Washington.
Pecoraro’s team was .500 to start the postseason and caught fire at the most opportune time. Pecoraro, who is 478-254 as Prairie Ridge’s coach, is the Northwest Herald Baseball Coach of the Year, selected by the sports staff with input from local coaches.
Huntley’s Andy Jakubowski, whose team was 32-3, and Richmond-Burton’s Mike Giese, whose Rockets finished 25-6 and won a Class 2A regional, also were considered.
This was Pecoraro’s second team to reach a Final Four. His 2014 team finished fourth in the Class 4A state tournament.
Pecoraro answered a few questions from Northwest Herald sports writer Joe Stevenson about the Wolves’ remarkable season.
What were you thinking when you went into the postseason at .500?
Pecoraro: Honestly, I told (assistant) coach (Mark) Skonieczny before the state tourney it would be satisfying if we could find a way to win a regional.
Do you have any pregame rituals or superstitions?
Pecoraro: I really don’t have a pregame ritual, but I definitely have a routine before games. I set up the field, review opponents charts/scouting reports and work through possible pitching and lineup changes on my lineup card for that day.
Who is the best speaker you have ever heard at a coaches clinic?
Pecoraro: (Palatine) coach (Paul) Belo and I have been attending clinics together since 1991. We’ve heard so many legends during that time. Some of those top speakers have been Gordie Gillespie, Lou Holtz, Jim Lefebvre, Brian Cain, Tony LaRussa and Jack Leggett.
If you could hop into a time machine, what sporting event would you go see?
Pecoraro: If I could go back in time it would definitely be Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, Cubs vs. Cleveland, and to the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team “Miracle on Ice” vs. the Russians, and to MJ’s Bulls’ run of the 1990s. Those three moments still get me teary-eyed. I grew up a die-hard Cubs’ fan and I’ll never forget the U.S. hockey team beating the Russians when those college boys were given zero chance over the best hockey team in the world. I still remember watching the game back on the farm in Marengo and feeling the energy coming right through the TV. It all happened right in the middle of the Cold War. And Michael Jordan sure gave us all a great 1990s decade. The GOAT!
What player on this team really inspired you with what he did?
Pecoraro: It’s very difficult to pick one player because so many of those boys contributed to our success. Alex Milone playing in the state semis and championship with a separated shoulder showed his toughness and what a great competitor he is. Winning all those one-run games with outstanding pitching and defense in crucial moments, with Matt Porter, Parker Swanson, Trace Vrbancic, Jacob Larson and Dylan Bremer making huge pitches to get us out of jams late in games. Defensively, numerous big-time defensive plays by Milone, Will Komar, Tyler Vasey and catcher Owen Brock. Bremer scoring the winning run in the sectional championship on a dropped third strike from second base and then getting the game-winning hit on a 1-2 count in the semifinal. You just never know in baseball.
If you could hear any musical act this summer, who would it be?
Pecoraro: My wife (Beth) and I love country music and try to get to Nashville every summer. We are huge fans of Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert, Justin Moore and Luke Combs. We have seen all those guys in concert except Luke Combs. Some day, I hope.
Back in January of 2020, you, Palatine coach Paul Belo, and Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski all went into the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame the same night. What was that like to go in with Paul, your close friend and college teammate, and Andy, a guy you have competed against so many years?
Pecoraro: The Hall of Fame night was incredible! To be able to spend that night with my family, coaches and former players was very humbling. I never even thought about the Hall of Fame except when my good friend, coach Ron Traven (rest in peace) would mention it to me. I’d always laugh it off. As far as going in with coach Belo and coach Jakubowski, it made the night even better. Coach Belo has been my mentor and best friend since we left Illinois-Chicago in 1991. We have spent hours talking the game and going over skills and situations. Every time he and I talk, I have to get out my notebook. Coach Belo has made me better and is a huge reason I’ve been fortunate to have any success in this game. As far as coach J, he and I have been competing against each other since the late 1990s when he was the head coach at Jacobs. We were both much more fiery and volatile back then, believe it or not. Coach J’s teams are always well-coached and play the game the right way. I have the utmost respect for him. The Hall of Fame, or any success, doesn’t happen by yourself. I’ve been very fortunate to have great assistant coaches (Andy Deain, Chuck Lowitzki, Sal Rudolph, Austin Padjen, Jay Sargeant, Mark Skonieczny, Travis Lobbins and Todd Hode, to name a few). Also, players and parents that have bought in andsupported everything we do. To say that I’m grateful would be an understatement.
What are some good words to live by?
Pecoraro: I’m sure I stole these from other coaches: “How you do anything is how you do everything,” “Get To vs. Have To,” “One percent better every day” and “Take care of the little things.”
What will you remember about the state championship game?
Pecoraro: In the state championship, I’ll never forget the support from the PR community. I was blown away. I’ll never forget how our boys came together to play the game at a level I didn’t know was possible. As a coach this is the absolute best, when you look in their eyes and you know they will compete and do whatever it takes to win. Every guy in that dugout was rowing the boat in the same direction and they fought until the very last out. That is what makes coaching special.
What are three of your favorite baseball movies?
Pecoraro: There’s no way I can only choose three. “Moneyball,” “The Natural,” “Bull Durham,” “Major League,” “Field of Dreams” and “For Love of the Game.”