The last five IHSA baseball seasons have concluded with a Fox Valley Conference in the Class 3A or 4A State Tournament semifinals.
Last year, there was one in each, Crystal Lake South in 3A and McHenry in 4A.
There is another strong group of teams poised to make their run to Joliet’s Duly Health & Care Field for the state tournaments on Friday, June 9, and Saturday, June 10.
Huntley (24-6), the FVC champion for a fifth consecutive season, is the most logical choice with six NCAA Division I players (signed or committed) and possibly more coming.
South (22-6) is as hot as any team, with 10 wins in its last 11 games and a lineup full of players who were integral parts of last season’s run.
Cary-Grove (20-9) has lost five of six, but played solid baseball most of the season and has a pitcher in junior Ethan Dorchies that no one wants to see in an elimination game.
Here are closer looks at the top five teams from the FVC’s regular season, although place really has not mattered in the past. Hampshire (4A, 2019) and South (3A, 2022) finished sixth in the FVC and both finished fourth in the state tournament.
Huntley: The Red Raiders are a top seed in the Class 4A Dundee-Crown Sectional and are 87-14 over the past three seasons, but they are hungry after being eliminated in the sectional the last two seasons.
“We are looking forward to our nonconference matchups to fine-tune ourselves after a tough weekend with Crystal Lake South and Plainfield North,” Red Raiders coach Andy Jakubowski said. “Our goals haven’t changed, which is to get 1% better each day, win a regional, and go as far as we can in the playoffs.”
Huntley’s Ryan and Brayden Bakes, Joey Garlin, Ryan Quinlan, AJ Putty and Ryan Dabe pack a lot of punch and starter Andrew Ressler has been outstanding.
McHenry: The Warriors (20-13) lost most of their lineup from last year’s fourth-place state tournament team, but two key returning players, lefty pitcher/DH Lleyton Grubich and catcher Cooper Cohn, have been led the way for another 20-win season and a fourth-place finish in the FVC.
Cohn recently set the Warriors’ career home run mark and Grubich is one of the FVC’s top aces.
“I feel we have played well at times this season, especially of late,” Warriors coach Brian Rockweiler said. “We played a very difficult and challenging nonconference schedule. With that and playing in the ultra-tough and competitive Fox Valley Conference I feel we are prepared for the post season.
“We have been pitching it well and playing solid defense. Our offense has been more consistent the last few weeks. We feel pretty good about the way we are playing going into the playoffs.”
Crystal Lake South: The Gators are led by third baseman-pitcher Ryan Skwarek and shortstop Dayton Murphy. Skwarek has been South’s ace and recently Jaden Gumprecht has proven to be a strong No. 2.
The Gators lost their top two pitchers last season (Ysen Useni and Mark DeCicco) to graduation, but have most of their lineup back. The recent hot stretch should boost their confidence as they host their own regional. South’s only loss in that stint was to Huntley, which is also beat.
Cary-Grove: The Trojans, who host their own regional, are led by center fielder Vinnie Lutz and catcher Nate Crick in the Nos. 3-4 spots in the batting order.
Dorchies, a 6-5 righthander committed to Illinois-Chicago, has almost been an automatic win.
“Our seniors have really stepped up and provided the kind of leadership all successful teams have.”— Ryan Passaglia, Cary-Grove baseball coach
“Overall, we’ve had a nice season,” Trojans coach Ryan Passaglia said. “Our seniors have really stepped up and provided the kind of leadership all successful teams have. We’re excited to be hosting a regional and are looking forward to the excitement and challenge a one-and-done playoff tournament presents.
“As history has proven, teams that peak this time of the year and play the cleanest baseball are the ones that advance. We hope to be one of those teams.”
Burlington Central: The Rockets (15-15) might be a year away from being a dominant 3A team, but they should be a tough out right now.
Junior ace Michael Person beat Huntley each of the past two seasons, joining McHenry’s Grubich with that distinction. He also beat South.
Shortstop Brady Gilroy, catcher Jake Johnson and first baseman AJ Payton have been some of Central’s top hitters. The Rockets travel to the Rochelle Regional.
“We’re only .500 right now, but have played a very tough schedule with the FVC, Lincoln-Way East and Central, St. Charles East, Nazareth, St. Charles North and Sycamore, with one thing in mind,” Rockets coach Kyle Nelson said, “be ready for the post season. I think this has prepared us for anything we will see in the 3A playoffs. Our goal is always to be playing our best baseball at the end of the season and I feel like we are doing that right now against some of the best teams in the state.”
Outside the FVC: Marengo (21-7) won the Kishwaukee River Conference and add to the school wins record with every triumph.
The Indians are the top seed in the Johnsburg Regional and will play for that championship on Saturday. A regional title would be Marengo’s first since 2004.
Pitcher-outfielder Caden Vogt set career homer, RBIs and doubles records and first baseman-pitcher Andrew Johnson has been tough at the plate and on the mound.
“We feel pretty happy about our season thus far. We had some preseason team goals that we wanted to accomplish, two of which were a 20-win season and a conference championship,” Indians coach Nick Naranjo said. “So to check those boxes this year was something pretty special.
“I could not be more proud of this group. We had some personal accomplishments with Caden breaking the career doubles and home runs record, and also breaking the season home run record. It has been a memorable season so far, but we are eager to continue our journey into the regional.”