ALGONQUIN – Evan Blunk faced one dangerous Huntley hitter after another Tuesday afternoon, knowing that at any time, the Red Raiders had the potential to erase the slim lead the Jacobs senior pitcher was protecting.
Even by the seventh inning, after striking out seven and keeping the Red Raiders scoreless, Blunk still couldn't breathe easy. But with two outs and the tying run on third, Blunk induced his eighth ground putout of the game as the Golden Eagles slipped past Huntley, 1-0, in a Fox Valley Conference Valley Division thriller.
Blunk, who had only a second-inning Danny Vandewalker RBI single as a cushion, picked up the complete-game victory, allowing only two hits to the area's most explosive offense on a day when warm blustery winds made hitting a nightmare.
"I just kept calm out there and kept doing what I was doing," Blunk said.
Blunk relied on a bevy of off-speed pitches, keeping the ball low and out of the wheelhouse of Huntley's hitters. Colin Lyman laced a leadoff double in the fourth inning that appeared to put Huntley (17-3, 10-3 Valley) within easy range of tying the game.
But when Mark Skonieczny lined out to right field and Lyman misunderstood Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski's order to bluff coming to third and ran anyway, a perfect throw from right fielder Joe Rizzuto caught Lyman in a rundown and took the Red Raiders out of the inning.
Blunk took care of the rest.
"He was unbelievable today," Jacobs coach Jamie Murray said. "He's been in some tough spots this year where we didn't score runs for him, but he did an outstanding job. We wanted to keep them off-balance and we wanted to keep their top three guys from doing anything.
"He was a warrior."
Huntley's Bryce Only allowed only four hits, but struggled with his command, walking eight, including the leadoff hitter in the second inning – Connor Conzelman – who scored on Vandewalker's single.
Despite that, though, he struck out eight over six innings, fully expecting that Huntley's offense would come around in time to eliminate the one-run deficit. Blunk saw to it that the Red Raiders didn't.
"It was just a tough hitting day," Only said. "But I think we've already put [the loss] behind us. We get to see [Jacobs] again on Thursday. ... so we're looking forward to seeing them again."
For Jacobs (15-5, 7-4), the win comes at a good time. The Golden Eagles face McHenry Wednesday before getting another look at Huntley. But after proving they have enough to overcome a high-powered offense, Murray believes Tuesday's win could go a long way in building his team's confidence.
"It was a great win," Murray said. "We've had some bumps in the road and we know what we're capable of and at the end of the year, it's going to come down to pitching and defense and I love my pitchers right now."