Each year, Huntley softball coach Mark Petryniec challenges his players to make Red Raiders' history and do what no team before it has ever done. This year marked the fourth straight time that Huntley made history.
After setting the school record for wins in each of the past three seasons, this year's group of Raiders became the first in program history to reach 30 wins – finishing 32-6 overall. Huntley, which at one point won 15 games in a row, captured its fourth straight Class 4A regional title and third straight Fox Valley Conference championship, losing one game in conference play to go 15-1.
Petryniec earned his 300th career coaching victory in a 13-0 win against Hampshire on May 9 and now has a 314-214 record, or a .595 winning percentage, since taking over in 2004. Over the past four years, Petryniec has led the Raiders to a 111-31 record.
For leading Huntley to a historic season, Petryniec has been named the 2018 Northwest Herald Softball Coach of the Year. Petryniec also earned the award in 2016. The 15-year coach caught up with the Northwest Herald and spoke about the season, his coaching influences and why he ate so many bagels and cream cheese in the spring.
What will you remember most about this season?
Petryniec: The collaboration of our younger girls and our older girls to set and reach new goals. Thirty wins was a huge goal for them, and winning conference again. The senior leadership that we had is going to be a lifelong memory and it's a hard group to say goodbye to.
Which one of your players do you find really inspiring?
Petryniec: It's one through 16. It goes back to tryouts and summer clinics. Everybody has something that they're bringing to the table that's going to allow us to be successful in the season. It's every one of them. And it's even girls on JV1 and JV2. It's the entire program.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Petryniec: I probably have so many superstitions that there are too many to count. Most people see that I pull grass before we're batting. Everybody always asks what's that's for. It's how many runs I want that inning. When we're away, [coaches and parents] will say, 'What are you doing? Stop ripping our grass up.'
What is your routine on game days?
Petryniec: Each morning of game day, I'll scout the opponent one last time. I absolutely have to have my lineup done before lunch. During the season, for lunch, I'll only eat at Dunkin' Donuts. I have an extra large coffee and a bagel with cream cheese until we lose, and then I'll switch it up to something different. I had a lot of bagels and cream cheese.
If you could invite any three people to dinner, who would you invite?
Petryniec: Kirby Puckett, Michael Jordan and Lauren Chamberlain. She's a big home-run hitter from Oklahoma, and I could get a little more insight on power hitting.
Which player on your team made you laugh the most?
Petryniec: Definitely (senior shortstop) Autumn Kasal. She even came to (summer) camp today, and one of the last things I said to her was, 'I'm not going to know how to replace the humor you brought every day.' Autumn had the quality where you can poke fun at her and she can take it. Whenever there was a tense moment, a little joke at Autumn would lighten our team up. That's going to be greatly missed next year.
What sports moment was so huge that you’ll always remember where you were when it happened?
Petryniec: My 300th (career win), and what all of the girls and assistant coach (Matt Langton) did for me will forever be a lifelong memory.
What is the last really good movie you saw in a theater?
Petryniec: Peter Rabbit. When you have young children and you go to a theater, that's what you get to see.
What sport that you didn’t play in high school would you have been good at?
Petryniec: My biggest joke with the girls is that I would have been a really good softball player.
What is the best Christmas present you ever received?
Petryniec: Every year my family goes to Texas, because most of my immediate family is there. We're 48 people strong. What allows the Chicago people to go down there is that the Texas people help pay for us to come down. My family helps us travel down there so we can all be together for Christmas.
Who was the biggest influence on you as a coach?
Petryniec: I cannot thank Matt Langton enough for what he's brought to the program since he was hired. You can classify him as a co-head coach. He runs the offense, he runs the pitching, and he has been a major factor in the success that we've had as a team.