HUNTLEY – Many of Huntley’s baseball players remembered that sharing the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division championship a year ago felt somewhat unsatisfying.
The Red Raiders, who dropped their final two games and finished as co-champs with Crystal Lake South, were determined to keep everything for themselves this time.
Huntley took care of business quickly Thursday in the completion of Tuesday’s game that was suspended after 6 1/2 innings because of lightning and thunder. The Raiders ripped three hits and scored two runs in the bottom of the sixth, and Nick Constantino worked a perfect top of the seventh against South for a 5-3 victory.
“Last year was a bad taste in our mouth,” first baseman Tommy Kiriakopoulos said. “It’s still good to have the title, but it’s even better to have sole possession of the championship. It means a lot. It’s Step 1, now hopefully we take a regional championship [next week] and take it from there.”
Kiriakopoulos blasted a two-run home run in the first inning Tuesday, but the Raiders (23-7-1 overall, 15-4 FVC Valley) had only one hit until the sixth. South (14-14, 8-11) tied the score with three runs in the top of the sixth Tuesday before the lightning delay.
Huntley’s 9-2 victory over Dundee-Crown on Wednesday, along with Jacobs’ 10-3 loss to Cary-Grove, clinched a Huntley title in some fashion for the third time in five seasons. By finishing the job Thursday, it’s the Raiders’ first outright FVC Valley baseball title.
“It feels amazing to have outright FVC Valley championship,” catcher Mark Skonieczny said. “It’s a great way to go out our senior year. This is a very tough conference – anybody can beat anybody any day.”
With one out Thursday, Matt Sullivan worked reliever Josh Smith for a walk in an eight-pitch at-bat. Skonieczny then shot a ball between first and second for a single, moving Sullivan to third. Kiriakopoulos had been teammates with Smith on the McHenry County Hurricanes in travel baseball and remembered an earlier at-bat this season against him.
“Josh is a phenomenal pitcher and he gave me a good curveball,” Kiriakopoulos said. “I’ve been hot lately, and that’s what I wanted to see. I took it back up the middle, got a little lift and it dropped right in.”
Jake Ciskowski followed with another hit, and the Raiders had a two-run lead. Nick Constantino (6-1) retired three batters in the seventh, and the celebration began. Meanwhile, in Carpentersville, Jacobs got a two-run homer from Danny Vandewalker in the 11th to beat Dundee-Crown, 4-2, in the completion of their suspended game from Tuesday, so the Raiders needed Thursday’s win for the outright title.
“We’re in a great conference, a rugged conference,” Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said. “To go 15-4 in the Valley says volumes. We play good baseball as a conference and it definitely gets us ready and prepared for the postseason. A great thing about our conference is every day is a grind.”