The first thing opposing teams and fans will notice when they walk into Huntley’s field this season is the remodeling behind home plate.
District 158 made big changes with a new brick backstop that reaches about 3 feet high, along with high netting to grab foul balls that extends about halfway down the first- and third-base lines.
There is padding behind home plate that will keep wild pitches or passed balls from bouncing back to the infield, as well as keeping balls from being scuffed.
The biggest interest to most teams is that the wall is several feet closer to home plate. In the past, any runner on third could easily score when balls got past catchers. Now, the defensive teams have a chance in those situations.
The Red Raiders’ softball field also received similar treatment with a new wall.
“Nothing had changed since they built the place,” Red Raiders baseball coach Andy Jakubowski said. “The district did the backstop and netting, for us and softball. It’s been long overdue. The district came through, and it’s a new look. We came in about 7 feet. We cut off a lot of foul territory.”
The baseball field also has a new batter’s eye, a tall dark screen behind the center-field fence that was donated and installed by a benefactor.
“I love it,” Huntley outfielder-catcher Ryan Bakes said. “The batter’s eye, I feel like I’m seeing the ball way better with those white houses out there. I like how they did the bricks.
They took a lot out of [the distance behind the plate]. It’s not that big anymore. The pads look nice. They did a good job.”
Upcoming milestones: Crystal Lake South’s 11-10 win over Kenston High School from Chagrin Falls, Ohio, on Friday in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, was the 299th victory of coach Brian Bogda’s 16-year career as coach.
Bogda (299-172) has a shot at win No. 300 when the Gators (6-0) host Jacobs at 4:30 p.m. Monday.
Two other FVC coaches also are approaching career milestones. Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro (497-272 in his 23rd season) soon will hit 500, and Huntley’s Jakubowski (395-200 in his 17th season) is closing in on 400 at his current school. Jakubowski is 491-315-1 overall with seasons at Boylan and Jacobs, so he also will hit No. 500 overall soon.
Those three have similar winning percentages, with Jakubowski at .663 at Huntley (.608 overall), Pecoraro at .646 and Bogda at .635.
Another strong arm: Huntley has two senior pitchers signed with NCAA Division I schools – Anthony Ressler (SIU-Edwardsville) and Parker Schuring (NIU) – as well as junior Malachi Paplanus, who is committed to D-I Wright State.
Senior Derek Huber, who will pitch at Rock Valley College (a two-year school) next year, also has been a big contributor.
On Monday, when Paplanus left after experiencing some pain in his throwing elbow, Huber quickly warmed up and worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings in a 1-0 victory over Maine South.
“He’s a three-pitch pitcher. He can throw any pitch at any time,” Jakubowski said. “He has a little run to his ball, he’s deceptive. He spins the ball well, has a good changeup and works both sides of the plate. Rock Valley is getting a good one.”
Huber had to warm up on the mound after Paplanus left, but he went to the bullpen after getting the last out of the inning for a some more warmups.
“They’re a very aggressive team, so my changeup was a big piece of that,” Huber said. “My slider was effective to righties. I didn’t have my good curveball today. I used my changeup, slider and fastball and used their aggressiveness against them.”
We also were able to add the new addition today! https://t.co/Ne6saWBb6R pic.twitter.com/aCSQdu2KW4— Mike Giese (@RBCHSBaseball) March 28, 2023
A banner day: Richmond-Burton recently added a new banner to its center field fence at Tom Miller Field, denoting its best year in school history last season.
The Rockets went 32-6 and finished as Class 2A state runners-up. The banner reads: “2022 IHSA Baseball Class 2A Second Place” with the Rockets’ logo on it.
Young and learning: Crystal Lake Central has one senior, pitcher-first baseman Mason Lechowicz, on its roster, which means most of the lineup is juniors and sophomores. The Tigers have seven sophomores on the roster.
Rhett Ozment, Carter Kelley, Connor Gibour and James Dreher are in the starting lineup, while Ben Breese, John Gariepy and Nolan Hollander also will play roles.
“It’s exciting. They have some growing up to do, not that they’re immature, they just haven’t been here before [on varsity],” Tigers coach Andy Deain said. “I love that they’re getting the reps now, and hopefully that leads into conference play, and hopefully they’re not looking like sophomores.”
Hot starts: South (6-0) and Huntley (5-0) have looked strong early as teams with a great deal of their 2022 lineups returning. Another team off to a sizzling start is Cary-Grove, which has posted seven wins in a row.
The Trojans lost to Barrington 3-2 in their season opener and have not lost since. In four of the past five games, C-G has not allowed more than three runs.