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Prairie Ridge baseball preparing for state finals

Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 6:39 p.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 6:41 p.m. CDT
Caption
Randy Stukenberg - for Shaw Media Prairie Ridge's Chris Slack dives safely to the bag as Mundelein first baseman Ryan Hollander loses the ball during the first inning of the IHSA Class 4A Rockford Aviators Supersectional game Monday, June 9, 2014. The Wolves beat Mundelein 9-6 to advance to the state tournament.

Prairie Ridge’s Tim Jablonsky did something in two swings that no home player has done all season at Rockford Aviators Stadium – hit a home run.

Jablonsky was called to pinch hit with the bases loaded in the bottom of the fifth inning in Monday’s Class 4A Rockford Supersectional baseball game. He delivered a shot for the ages, a grand slam that lifted the Wolves to a 9-6 victory over Mundelein and their second trip to the Class 4A State Tournament in school history.

Prairie Ridge (24-16) meets Providence (26-14) in a semifinal game at 3 p.m. Friday at Joliet’s Silver Cross Field. South Elgin (24-10-1) faces St. Rita (36-4) in the second semifinal.

The Wolves will leave on Thursday and stay overnight in Joliet on Thursday and Friday nights. Tickets are $6 and will be sold at the stadium.

In 2008, the Wolves won the Class 4A state championship with a team led by five seniors who went to NCAA Division I teams. This year’s team had nowhere near that acclaim, but here it is still standing.

Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro can run down a list of former teams with more talented players, stars who moved on to D-I programs, but none of them reached the state tournament.

“I don’t know what to say,” Pecoraro said. “It’s unbelievable.”

As Jablonsky's home-run ball dropped behind the 315-foot sign on the left-field line, Aviators personnel in the press box remarked that no players from the Frontier League team had hit a homer at home yet this season.

Jablonsky’s slam electrified the Prairie Ridge crowd. Pitching coach Andy Deain was so fired up he threw his cap down and marched down the first-base line to slap high-fives with several former players in the first row.

Prairie Ridge started 2-8 and was struggling just past halfway through the season. In early May, the Wolves swept Jacobs in two games, starting a string of 14 victories in 16 games.

“We’ve gone a long way from being 2-8 to the final four,” left fielder Kyle Buresch said. “There’s so much resiliency on this team.”

The only regular hitting better than .300 is first baseman Marcus Sargeant at .319. The Wolves’ pitching has allowed three earned runs in five postseason games. Starter Ben Cilano was not as sharp Monday, but sophomore Jon Tieman threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief and gave up only two hits for the win.

Tieman gave the Prairie Ridge coaches something to consider for Friday’s semifinal. Pecoraro said they are leaning toward throwing Austin Covers, who got wins in the Grayslake North Regional final against Grant and in the McHenry Sectional championship against Jacobs.

“The way Jon Tieman threw the ball last night …,” Pecoraro said. “And Jack Myes has been our guy all year in the sixth or seventh inning. Covers, Tieman or Myers, I’m comfortable with any one of those three.”

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