Baseball: McHenry knocks off Huntley to win 1st sectional
A few sips of water, a bite or two from a granola bar and a couple of deep breaths equaled the routine that McHenry pitcher Lleyton Grubich subscribed to at the Class 4A Jacobs sectional championship game on Saturday against Huntley.
His routine translated into a calm and cool demeanor on the mound for McHenry and that was no more evident than in the top of the seventh inning.
With his team up a run, Grubich calmly struck out the side in the top of the seventh, sealing a 4-3 win over Huntley and giving McHenry its first sectional baseball title in school history.
"I was just doing my normal routine in the dugout," Grubich said. "Taking a few cups of water, eating a few bites of a granola bar and kept telling myself to keep doing what I did the last six innings."
McHenry (29-8) improved upon its school record for wins and will face York, a 3-2 winner over Lake Park on Saturday, in Monday's supersectional at Northwestern Medicine Field, home of the Kane County Cougars, at 6 p.m.
"We have talked so much about how (Grubich) has grown up so much this year," McHenry coach Brian Rockweiler said. "Today he showed that he was the guy and that nothing was going to faze him."
Grubich and the Warriors' nerves were put to the challenge in the top of the sixth inning. A leadoff single by Joey Garlin and two fielders' choice groundouts put the Red Raiders with the tying run at third and A.J. Putty at the plate.
In Putty's previous at-bat, he drilled a 2-1 pitch over the right field wall for a three-run home run to bring Huntley within a run. With first base open, Grubich and the Warriors pitched to Putty and the result was a slow grounder that Kyle Kaempf fielded and threw out Putty to end the threat.
"My approach was to attack, attack, attack," Grubich said. "Just get ahead and then keep (Huntley) guessing."
McHenry jumped on the Red Raiders in the first inning. A one-out double by Cooper Cohn set the table for Connor Rodgers. On a 1-1 pitch from Huntley starter Andrew Ressler, Rodgers got the ball up in the wind to right and it carried for a two-run homer and an early 2-0 lead.
"I like pitches on the outer half, and I am comfortable going the other way, "Rodgers said. "When he threw it on the outside corner, I just went with it. I didn't think it was going out, but I knew I hit it well."
From there Grubich kept the powerful Huntley offense off guard. He sat the Red Raiders down in order four different times, including in the top of the seventh. The junior allowed just four hits while striking out 10 and not yielding a walk.
"He wanted it today -- he really wanted it," Rockweiler said. "He pitched really, really well."
Huntley (31-5) saw a season where the Red Raiders won their sixth straight regional title and a Fox Valley Conference title.
"We knew this was going to be a great ballgame today -- two teams both hot at the right time," said Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski. "Grubich threw it really well and I wish them nothing but the best of luck. Go represent the Fox Valley and go win this thing."
McHenry plated two more runs in the second inning on an RBI double from Grubich and a fielder's choice RBI from Gavin Micklinghoff.