Prairie Ridge rarely struggled for runs last season with sluggers Bryan Klendworth and Jordan Getzelman hitting in the Nos. 1 and 3 spots.
Those two combined for 18 home runs themselves, 11 more than the Wolves have as a team this season. Still, Prairie Ridge (21-16) has managed to win 11 of its past 13 games, often with the minimum in run support.
“We need to score more runs,” Wolves coach Glen Pecoraro said. “Believe me, I’ve been trying everything. We’ve been very, very fortunate to get some timely hits and it’s worked out for us.”
Pecoraro knows scoring likely will not get easier in the Class 4A McHenry Sectional, which starts at 4 p.m. Wednesday with Prairie Ridge facing Huntley (26-7-1) in the first semifinal at Petersen Park. Jacobs (24-13) faces Hononegah (24-11) in the second game, scheduled for 6:30.
The winners meet for the sectional championship at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Prairie Ridge’s pitchers did not allow a run through 16 innings in the Grayslake North Regional. Huntley (two), Jacobs (three) and Hononegah (three) were almost as stingy.
“It’s going to be a pitching- and defensive-heavy sectional,” Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said. “Runs will be at a premium. The team that executes offensively when they have the opportunity will be in a positive position.”
Huntley, the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division champion, will choose between Eric Luecht and submariner Adam Kalish. Prairie Ridge is going with junior Ben Cilano, who is 4-0 with an 0.77 ERA and 51 strikeouts in 45 innings. Cilano threw six no-hit innings at McHenry in a 4-0 win last week.
“From my end, yes,” said Cilano, when asked if runs could be tough to come by. “Hopefully we can put some runs on the board, but it’s always fun being in a pitcher’s duel. We played them twice and they were close games. We’ve been playing a lot better, I like our chances.”
The Wolves won their last seven FVC games to finish third in the Valley Division, two games behind Huntley (15-4) and one behind Jacobs (14-5). Prairie Ridge won 11 of its last 13 games.
“It’s been our pitching and defense, and some timely hitting,” Pecoraro said. “Our pitching, for the most part, has been consistent. Around 18 or 20 games, we really settled in, the defense was solid and the pitching was solid and we were scoring just enough runs.”
Luecht and Cilano locked into a pitching duel on April 26 that Huntley eventually won, 8-2, in 10 innings. Through seven innings, each had allowed two runs.
“Now that it’s the playoffs, we’re expecting to see everybody’s best,” Luecht said. “It’s always fun being out there and knowing every single pitch will count, will make a difference. Everything is a big play. It’s a lot more amped up.”
Luecht felt that excitement Saturday when the Red Raiders defeated Dundee-Crown, 3-2, in eight innings. Kalish and Nick Constantino teamed up for that win against D-C’s Ahren Ludwig.
“Ludwig was great. Adam and Nick had a great game for us,” Luecht said. “Out of all those pitches, it seemed like every single pitch counted. It’s going to be a lot of fun because [Cilano] is a good pitcher and our staff is strong.”