There was a familiar theme among Fox Valley Conference teams that won regional baseball tournaments Saturday: Your opponents can’t win if they don’t score.
Burlington Central, Cary-Grove, Crystal Lake South and Huntley shut out their foes while winning regional championships. The fifth FVC regional champ, Jacobs, won in a different manner, rallying with five runs in the seventh inning to beat McHenry 9-5 for the Class 4A Dundee-Crown Regional title.
Teams love strong pitching and stingy defense, especially when it comes to the postseason. As C-G coach Ryan Passaglia said last week, “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 (29-7): The Rockets are playing in a sectional for the fourth time in the past six seasons after dismantling Dixon and Sterling to the tune of 23-0 combined in Class 3A Rochelle Regional games.
“Just like in the regional, we feel prepared,” Rockets coach Kyle Nelson said. “We know every team in our sectional is very talented, but our schedule prepares us for that. We’ve been getting good pitching, great defense and our approaches at the plate have been very good the past few weeks.”
Central plays Lemont (28-6-1) at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Kaneland Sectional. The winner advances to Saturday’s 11 a.m. championship against the winner of Thursday’s semifinal between Sycamore and St. Francis.
Cary-Grove (26-9): The Trojans (26-9) played two clean games, allowing only one run, to win their own Class 3A regional last week. Junior right-hander Ethan Dorchies was outstanding, allowing two hits and striking out 12 in Saturday’s 1-0 championship game victory over Prairie Ridge.
The Trojans face Lake Forest (20-15) at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the Grayslake Central Sectional. They won sectional titles in 2006 and 2009, the year they took fourth in the Class 4A state tournament.
“Our players are excited to be making our first trip to the sectionals since 2019,” Passaglia said. “After a down year result-wise last year, this group, led by our seniors, has worked hard to get C-G baseball back to competing for conference titles and enjoying postseason success.
“The camaraderie within our team is high, and the players play for each other. We hope to continue playing the game at a high level and see where it leads us.”
If C-G wins, it will meet South or Grayslake Central for the sectional championship at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Crystal Lake South (26-7): South won its second regional title in a row and is in the sectional for the fourth time in six years.
The Gators finished fourth in the Class 3A state tournament last year and returned most of that starting lineup. They have won 14 of their past 16 games heading into Thursday’s sectional semifinal against Grayslake Central.
“I am proud of how this group has played as a team and competed all year long,” Gators coach Brian Bogda said. “We continue to strive for daily improvement.”
The winner of that game will play either C-G or Lake Forest at 1 p.m. Saturday for the sectional championship.
Huntley (29-7): The Red Raiders expect to be in a sectional every season, as they are making their seventh consecutive appearance there.
Huntley won its fifth straight FVC title and outscored Jefferson and Hampshire a combined 29-0 to win the Class 4A Hampshire Regional. Senior right-hander Andrew Ressler fired a no-hitter to beat the host Whip-Purs 3-0 in the title game Saturday.
The Raiders face Jacobs (18-18) at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in a D-C Sectional semifinal.
“We are looking forward to Wednesday. It should be a great atmosphere,” Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said. “Jacobs is getting hot at the right time, so it should come down to great pitching, defense and situational hitting.”
The winner of that game advances to Saturday’s 10 a.m. championship against the winner of Thursday’s semifinal between Grant (17-16) and Hononegah (27-6).
Jacobs (18-18): The Golden Eagles have found their hitting stroke at an opportune time, putting up 33 runs in their past four games, with nine each in D-C Regional wins over the host Chargers and McHenry.
The regional title made it back-to-back sectional appearances for Jacobs, which won four straight regionals from 2013-16, followed by a four-year gap. The Eagles had not been playing their best at the end of the season, losing five of their last seven regular-season games, but that is a distant memory now.
“Our kids have been tested all year. I feel like it took us a little longer, but the walk-off grand slam [by Owen Ziaja] against Geneva was our turning point,” Eagles coach Jamie Murray said. “We are healthy, we have depth, and we can come from behind, which we showed Saturday when we fell behind McHenry 5-1.”
The Eagles also made their comeback against McHenry ace Lleyton Grubich, who has been one of the FVC’s toughest pitchers the last two seasons.
“I’m not sure people realize this about us, but we can swing it,” Murray said.