McHENRY – Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro watched pitcher Ben Harris mow down McHenry’s lineup, striking out seven and allowing only three runners, and had one question.
“Who’s the idiot that didn’t start Ben Harris all year long?” Pecoraro said.
Pecoraro and assistant coach Austin Padjen liked having Harris and hard-throwing junior Holden Phelps at the back end of games. But they liked him even better Saturday at the front end.
Harris fired a two-hitter on 96 pitches when the Wolves needed it most as they defeated McHenry, 8-0, in the final game of their three-game Fox Valley Conference series at Petersen Park.
Prairie Ridge (14-5, 8-3 FVC) desperately wanted a victory to keep pace with Huntley (15-4, 9-2) in the conference. The Wolves led Huntley by a game to start the week. McHenry is 11-6, 6-4.
“Our starters have done a good job – not a great job, but a good job,” Pecoraro said. “We need a stopper, somebody when we put him on the bump he had a good chance of getting us a win. What an outing today. It’ll be nice having him in the rotation.”
Dom Listi was scheduled to start but had a 103-degree fever and missed the game. Pecoraro plugged in Harris, who was outstanding last season as the Wolves' closer and was making his first career high school start.
“I was a little nervous at first. It felt really different,” Harris said. “It means a lot, me coming in and helping the team out. I stayed consistent throughout the game, worked below the rope, as Coach Pec says.”
McHenry’s Mark Winter singled in the second, Carter Foat drew a walk in the third, and Joe Kaminski singled in the seventh for the Warriors’ only runners.
Wolves designated hitter Keegan Garis kick-started the offense that had been held to one run in losses to McHenry on Wednesday and Thursday. He drove in Prairie Ridge’s first four runs with a fielder’s choice, sacrifice fly and two-run homer.
“Runners were getting on base, and I had the opportunity to get some RBIs,” Garis said. “I just took advantage of it. This was big. We focused a lot in practice [Friday] to stay loose. We felt like we were playing pretty tight. It was very important to get that last win against a good team like McHenry.”
In the pregame huddle, Pecoraro emphasized having fun and said he was going to smile a lot. Harris’ performance helped all the Wolves’ demeanor.
“[Harris] throws hard. He was throwing his curveball for strikes. He’s pretty good,” Warriors coach Brian Rockweiler said. “We knew we were going to have to play pretty flawless today and get some hitting. It just didn’t work out.”
STAR OF THE GAME
Ben Harris, Prairie Ridge, sr., P
Harris was dominant in his first start of his career, striking out seven, allowing two hits and walking one in the Wolves’ 8-0 victory.
1: Prairie Ridge scored one total run in the first two games of the McHenry series.
AND ANOTHER THING ...
Wolves coach Glen Pecoraro lauded McHenry left fielder Jake Evans on a bases-loaded play in the first inning. Evans put his glove up as if he might catch Keegan Garis’ line drive, which fell in front of him. Evans’ decoy held runner Jared Lindquist at second base just long enough to get a forceout at third.
Prairie Ridge 8, McHenry 0
Prairie Ridge 101 040 2 – 8 12 0
McHenry 000 000 0 – 0 2 2
WP: Ben Harris, 2-0 (7IP, 2H, 0R, 0ER, 1BB, 7K). LP: Jaedin Kotecki (4.1IP, 8H, 6R< 5ER, 2BB, 1K).
Top hitters–Prairie Ridge: Keegan Garis 1-3 (HR, 4RBIs), Chris Rafford 4-4 (RBI, R), Luke Fiantago 2-3 (3RBIs), Jacob Reichert 1-4 (2R), Jared Lindquist 2-4. McHenry: Joe Kaminski 1-3, Mark Winter 1-3.