HAMPSHIRE – Huntley's all-time leader in wins, 2018 graduate Tiffany Giese, promised to come back and see the Red Raiders make it further than any other softball team in school history after her high school career ended last year with a second straight loss in the sectional finals.
After visiting the team Friday, Giese, along with a large group of Huntley alumni, stood behind home plate Saturday to witness Red Raiders history in the Class 4A Hampshire Sectional championship game.
Freshman Reese Hunkins provided a walk-off hit with one out in the bottom of the seventh, scoring Marley Reicher and leading the Raiders past McHenry, 4-3, for their first sectional title.
Huntley (32-7), which tied the program record for wins in a season, advances to play Hersey (27-6) in the Barrington Supersectional at 7 p.m. Monday with the winner going to the state tournament in East Peoria.
"It's been a long time coming," Raiders coach Mark Petryniec said. "If you look back, a lot of one-run games have knocked us out, even going back to 10 years ago with (2009 graduate Sam) Clemons. These girls were playing not only for themselves, but for every girl before them. This is a win for the program today."
Huntley carried a 3-1 lead into the sixth until McHenry senior Kate Funk curled a two-run home run inside the left-field foul pole on a 3-1 pitch from Briana Bower, tying the score at 3.
With the same score, Marley Reicher started Huntley's rally in the seventh with a bunt back to McHenry pitcher Alyssa Pearson, who fielded the ball cleanly but could not throw out the speedy sophomore.
"I knew I had one job to do," Reicher said. "That's why I like slapping. You get to mess up the defense."
A fielder's choice moved Reicher to second. Kendra Mitchell then had an infield hit to put runners on first and third. The next batter, Hunkins, hit the first pitch over center fielder Kyra Lard for the game winner.
"I saw the outfield was really far in, and I knew I had to hit it hard," said Hunkins, who was 3 for 4 with two RBIs.
Bower improved to 24-5, scattering five hits and allowing three runs with nine strikeouts.
"It feels great," said Bower, who has 324 strikeouts in 190 1/3 innings. "Past players left their legacy, and we wanted to build from that and make history. I'm happy for them, and happy for us."
Jocelyn Currie was 2 for 3 with a solo homer and two runs for McHenry. Lard had a double, and Maddy McDaniel added a single. Senior Tori Boysen went hitless in her last game, but the catcher picked off a runner at second.
Pearson gave up four runs (two earned) on eight hits with three strikeouts and a walk. Huntley's Grace Kutz (2 for 2) hit a solo homer in the fourth for a 3-1 lead. Sofia Tenuta added a sacrifice fly.
McHenry (23-13) improved by nine wins, taking third in the FVC after an eighth-place finish in 2018.
"With Huntley in our conference, every year it always comes down to, 'What are you going to do against them?'" first-year McHenry coach Mikaela Mitsch said. "We were excited to play them, and we were mad to play them, and that was kind of the driving force. We wanted to take it home for the FVC, but we're still proud that the FVC is represented."
STAR OF THE GAME
Reese Hunkins, Huntley, fr., 2B
Hunkins hit a walk-off single to deep center field in the seventh, going 3 for 4 with two RBIs in Huntley's 4-3 win over McHenry.
1: The Red Raiders captured their first sectional championship in program history.
AND ANOTHER THING …
Huntley (32-7) tied the program record for wins in a season with Saturday’s sectional championship win. The Raiders can set a new record with a win over Hersey at Monday’s Barrington Supersectional.
Class 4A Hampshire Sectional
Huntley 4, McHenry 3
McHenry 100 002 0 – 3 5 1
Huntley 002 100 1 – 4 8 0
WP:Bower: (7IP, 4H 3R, 3ER, 0BB, 9K). LP:Pearson (6.1IP, 8H, 4R, 2ER, 1BB, 3K).
Top hitters–McHenry:Currie 2-3 (HR, 2B, RBI, 2R), Funk 1-3 (HR, 2RBI, R), Lard 1-3 (2B), McDaniel 1-3. Huntley:Hunkins 3-4 (2RBI), Kutz 2-2 (HR, RBI, R), Reicher 1-3 (2R), Zielinski 1-3 (R), Mitchell 1-3.