CRYSTAL LAKE – McHenry played in the first inning against Prairie Ridge as if it was allergic to leather.
The Warriors had no such problem with metal.
McHenry overcame three first-inning errors and five unearned runs with a 13-hit onslaught, led by right fielder Devon Gehrke’s two home runs, and defeated the Wolves, 14-8, in their Fox Valley Conference Valley Division baseball game Saturday.
“We just couldn’t get down [after the first],” Gehrke said. “We put our bats together and took it [to the opposite field] and put the barrel on the ball in good situations. [Hitting] hasn’t been good lately. We haven’t been seeing the ball well and have been letting too many strikes go by.”
The Warriors (18-7 overall, 10-7 FVC Valley) had scored 33 runs in their previous nine games, with 12 of those coming Wednesday against Richmond-Burton. They were 2-7 in those games.
McHenry took a 2-0 lead in the first inning when Gehrke led off with a home run and Jordan Witbeck later had an RBI single.
But the Wolves (19-9, 10-6) took advantage of three errors with Will Harvel’s grand slam and took a 5-2 lead.
“I went to the dugout thinking this might be one of those days again,” Warriors coach Brian Rockweiler said. “We kept telling the kids to keep battling and compete. We talked a lot about competing with two strikes. We did a lot better job today with two-strike hitting.”
Gehrke’s homers, Cole Hoeppel-Tranter’s two fifth-inning hits and Zak Teuber’s RBI single in the fifth all came with two strikes. Hoeppel-Tranter led off that inning with a single and capped the eight-run inning with a three-RBI double.
“I knew I had to get it started off and once I did that, everybody’d pick me up and we’d score,” Hoeppel-Tranter said. “It was really good for us to get back on track. It’s always good to get two hits in an inning.”
The 14-run outburst came less than 24 hours after Wolves right-hander Steven Ladd fired a 10-strikeout two-hitter at the Warriors in a 3-0 Prairie Ridge victory. Three of McHenry’s runs Saturday were unearned, but Wolves coach Glen Pecoraro thought his team could have fielded much better.
“We’ve played some clean baseball this week,” Pecoraro said. “We had great clean games with [Crystal Lake] South and Jacobs. We played clean last night, but today, not so much. We have to take care of the ball on defense, and we have to pitch better.”
Prairie Ridge center fielder Jordan Getzelman missed the McHenry series, but will return for Cary-Grove on Monday. Getzelman said he has methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterial infection, on his left leg that forced him out of the games.