McHENRY – Prairie Ridge junior Ben Cilano, who had cruised through 4 2/3 innings without trouble, stared it in the face a few moments later.
Cilano struggled with three walks, the Wolves committed their lone error and there was Huntley’s Mark Skonieczny, one of the area’s most dangerous hitters, standing in the batter’s box with the bases loaded, representing the tying run.
“You have to respect a hitter like that,” Cilano said. “It was the same thing as all season. I had to trust my defense, put it over the white and trust my ability. We got through it.”
Cilano was able to get Skonieczny on a fly ball to center field to end the inning. The final two innings were uneventful for Prairie Ridge as reliever Jack Myers nailed down the final four outs in a 5-1 victory Wednesday in the Class 4A McHenry Sectional baseball tournament at Petersen Park.
“It was good to see Ben battle through that adversity,” Wolves coach Glen Pecoraro said. “If they hit a ball in the gap there, it’s a 5-3 or 5-4 game.”
Cilano (5-0) allowed two hits, struck out four and walked five to lead the Wolves (22-16) to Saturday’s 11 a.m. championship game against Jacobs (25-13).
Prairie Ridge scored twice in the fourth inning off Huntley’s Eric Luecht with an RBI single from Cal Aldridge, who then scored on a wild pitch.
“We knew if we could get one or two runs, Ben would shut it down like he always does,” said Aldridge, who also had an RBI single in the fifth. “The guys did a great job getting on base in front of me. I’m glad I could get them over. That was a lot of fun.”
The Wolves added three runs, two unearned, in the fifth and Cilano, who entered the game with an 0.77 ERA retired the first two batters in the bottom of that inning before some struggles.
“It was something mechanical, I wasn’t sitting on my legs like I should,” Cilano said.
Cilano left the bases loaded in the fifth and Huntley (26-8-1) managed one walk in each of the last two innings, but never seriously threatened to score again.
“[Cilano] moved the ball in and out well, we hit some balls on the screws and they made the plays,” Red Raiders coach Andy Jakubowski said. “We just couldn’t get that big hit.”
Skonieczny, who will play at Illinois, had one of the two hits off of Cilano in the first inning.
“He’s a great pitcher and he battled hard,” Skonieczny said. “I wish I could have that at-bat back.”
Prairie Ridge started the season at 2-8, but now has won 12 of its last 14 games. It finished third in the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division behind Huntley and Jacobs.
“We talk about creating that big inning and we put two and then three on the board,” Pecoraro said. “With Cilano, that’s a big hole to dig out of.”