For an example of how wacky the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division baseball race has become, consider this: Jacobs was 1-3 in league games last week and still is in first place.
In a race tighter than Spandex on an offensive lineman, Jacobs is tied with Cary-Grove and Huntley, all at 11-4 with four games to play. McHenry is a game behind. Prairie Ridge (9-6) and Dundee-Crown (8-6) are lingering, but likely have too many teams to jump at this point.
“It’s crazy,” Jacobs junior pitcher-outfielder Ryan Sargent said after Saturday’s 5-1 victory at McHenry. “Hopefully, it can be like last year. We came back from prom and lost four straight games, just like last year, and then we got a big win and went on a 10-game winning streak and really went off.”
Jacobs did not win the Valley championship, but it won its first regional and sectional titles in school history. The Golden Eagles are aiming for another first with an FVC Valley crown.
C-G won eight consecutive FVC games (crossover games count in the division standings) and held sole possession of first place overnight Friday. Huntley rebounded with a 5-3 victory that forged a three-way tie atop the division.
“This is exactly what I thought would happen,” C-G coach Don Sutherland said. “I’m not surprised. Our conference is always so darn good. I’m surprised Prairie Ridge and [Crystal Lake] South aren’t there with us, but they’re not too far back.
C-G suffered two losses to FVC Fox teams when it faced a pair of aces in Johnsburg’s Collin Ridout and Grayslake Central’s Justin Guryn. Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski figures if a team can get through the crossover games with zero or one loss, then play a little better than .500 against Valley teams, it has a chance.
“You do that and you put yourself in a pretty good position to win a conference championship,” said Jakubowski, whose team shared the title with South last year. “You have a bunch of quality teams fighting for something they all want. It’s going to be a very interesting race coming down to the last four games.”
McHenry’s resiliency has kept the Warriors in the division race. Three times in eight days, they rallied in their final at-bat and won games. They scored seven, five and five runs in those games.
“These guys never give up, and they always believe they’re in it, no matter what the situation is,” McHenry coach Brian Rockweiler said. “It’s exciting. Every game on our side is a battle. You never have a day off.”
Murray embraces the competitive aspect.
“This is why we all play the game,” he said. “You want to see the kids be successful, but I want to see these seniors go out as [division] champions.”