GRAYSLAKE – Prairie Ridge had just let a five-run lead slip away against Fox Valley Conference rival McHenry, putting the Wolves to their biggest test of the summer Thursday.
"We got a little down," junior center fielder Matt Porter said. "I don't think we were ever out mentally. We knew we had a chance to come back in the bottom of the sixth inning, and that's exactly what we did."
Porter got the Wolves' offense going again with a leadoff double to center field. He moved to third on a bunt single and later scored on a wild pitch as part of a three-run sixth for the Wolves.
McHenry put two runners on with one out in the top of the seventh, but Jaedin Kotecki hit into a game-ending double play against Prairie Ridge junior Parker Swanson, ripping a line drive to second baseman Braden Thelander, who grabbed the ball and tossed to shortstop Alex Milone for the last out.
Prairie Ridge defeated McHenry, 8-6, in the Grayslake Central Regional championship game and is one of eight teams remaining in the Phil Lawler Summer Classic. The Wolves, who finished second in last year's tournament, play Geneva at 10 a.m. Monday at North Central College in Naperville in the double-elimination finals.
Coming so close to winning the tournament last summer wasn't lost on the Wolves.
"Last year's team, going down to state for the summer, we wanted to keep that legacy going," said Porter, who was 2 for 2. "We have almost a whole new lineup, but we want to continue that summer success at Prairie Ridge."
Senior Will Anderson started for the Wolves and did not allow a base runner until a leadoff double from Kotecki in the fifth. Trailing, 5-0, in the sixth, pinch-hitter Luke Anderson and Ricky Powell reached base on a walk and a single, respectively.
Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro then made a change.
"They really didn't get many good swings against Will," Pecoraro said. "He was really mixing his curveball well with his fastball, and it really kept them off-balance. We knew at 75, 80 pitches, we wanted to get him out of there."
Prairie Ridge's defense fell apart after Anderson's exit with three straight errors in the infield leading to three unearned runs. McHenry scored six runs on three hits, all singles, to take a 6-5 lead.
Pinch-hitter Aiden Barroso drove in the go-ahead run for the Warriors with two outs, ripping a line drive to center field and scoring Brett Loeding, who slid headfirst into home plate to beat the return throw from Porter.
"We've been harping all summer about playing hard and playing until the last out," McHenry coach Brian Rockweiler said. "Today, the first guy was dealing, but our guys never gave up, and they kept fighting, which was good to see."
After Porter scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at 6 for Prairie Ridge in the bottom of the sixth, Milone added a sacrifice fly, and the Wolves added their eighth run on a McHenry fielding error.
Ryan Goudschaal went 3 for 4 with a home run and two RBIs for the Wolves, and Keegan Garis, Jeff Stanish and Owen Brock had one RBI apiece. Trevor Rockweiler had two RBIs for McHenry. Kotecki, Loeding and Gavin Lobbins each had one.
"It means a lot to move on," Anderson said. "Now we're trying to go down there and win it."
STAR OF THE GAME
Will Anderson, Prairie Ridge, sr., P
Anderson continued a strong summer of pitching performances for the Wolves, giving up two runs on two hits in five-plus innings. The 6-foot-1 righty struck out six and walked one.
6: McHenry scored all six of its runs in the sixth inning.
AND ANOTHER THING ...
Prairie Ridge coach Glen Pecoraro has high expectations every year for the Phil Lawler Summer Classic. "We always play for this," Pecoraro said. "This is something special to our guys. I expect them to be here and compete for their high school. Some other coaches don't, but we do."