HUNTLEY – Before their first game every season, Huntley softball coach Mark Petryniec challenges his players to leave their mark and do something no Red Raiders team has done before.
The 2019 team will be hard to top.
A week after the Raiders won the Class 4A state title with a 1-0 victory in eight innings against St. Charles East at the EastSide Centre in East Peoria, the community gathered Monday in Huntley’s East Gym to celebrate one more time.
Huntley ran the table and won its final 19 games to become the first team in school history to end the season as a state champion. The Raiders also set the program record for wins, finishing 35-7.
“Together, 19 of us collectively came together to achieve something that has never been done before,” said Petryniec, who is 349-221 in 16 years at Huntley. “Each team has been told to leave their mark. ... Well ladies, you will forever be remembered as the first Huntley High School team to win a state championship.”
With the Class 4A state trophy on stage, Athletic Director Glen Wilson, Huntley Principal Marcus Belin, Petryniec and senior center fielder Kendra Mitchell each spoke to the crowd dressed in Huntley’s school colors of red, white and black.
“We are so incredibly proud of our players, coaches, families and all of our fans for their outstanding commitment and support,” Wilson said. “This indeed has been an amazing ride, culminating with an electrifying 1-0 eight-inning win over St. Charles East.”
Belin was part of a large Huntley fan presence that followed the team’s state title run. Belin could be seen sprinting up and down the foul lines with a big Huntley flag and also posting the team’s latest win to social media.
“I’d just tweet out, go on Instagram and go crazy,” Belin said. “To be able to share stories of such an awesome year and to get to know you all, I’m so sad that I only got to spend one year with you [seniors]. I told you all to bring some hardware home, and you did it.”
The Raiders beat Barrington, 6-1, in the sectional semifinals and defeated McHenry, 4-3, for the team’s first sectional title. Huntley then beat Hersey, 3-1, in the Barrington Supersectional to secure its first state appearance.
At East Peoria, Huntley defeated nationally ranked Marist, 3-2, in the state semifinals. In the championship game, senior Sofia Tenuta drove in the game’s only run on a sacrifice fly to break a 0-0 tie in the top of the eighth inning, scoring senior Taylor Zielinski.
Sophomore pitcher Briana Bower retired the side in order in the bottom half, finishing the shutout with her 13th strikeout and a celebratory pileup in the infield dirt with her teammates.
“It’s pretty awesome for everyone to set this up,” Bower said. “It’s awesome because you have so many people here that really support you. They’re there along the way to encourage you. It means a lot.”
Junior third baseman Teagan O’Rilley had perhaps the biggest hit of the season for Huntley, ripping a grand slam to help beat Barrington after the Fillies had eliminated the Raiders in each of the past three seasons.
“It’s still like a dream,” O’Rilley said of winning a state title. “I didn’t think it would be a reality.”
Mitchell, one of five graduated seniors on the Raiders who will continue to play softball in college, spoke about the lasting memories from a long postseason run, which wasn’t always smooth and easy.
“We had a lot of fun Fridays and some long bus rides,” Mitchell said. “Our trip down to state was a blast. We grew even closer than we already were. We’re not just a softball team, we’re a family.
“To Coach P and [assistant coach Matt Langton], thank you for always believing in us. There were a few times this season where we got down on ourselves and didn’t think we were capable of this. And, yet, look where we are.”