Prairie Ridge’s baseball season started taking a dramatic turn May 6.
The Wolves were 10-14 at the time and virtually out of the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division race. Prairie Ridge came through with a big rally to beat Jacobs, 9-2, in nine innings that game. The Wolves followed with a 2-0 win against the Golden Eagles a day later on Marcus Sargeant’s two-RBI single and Danny Burris’ shutout pitching.
The losses did not bother Jacobs, which bounced back strong and took second place in the FVC Valley, one game behind Huntley.
The wins, on the other hand, revitalized Prairie Ridge, which is 12-2 since and faces Jacobs at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Class 4A McHenry Sectional championship game at Petersen Park. The winner advances to the Rockford Aviators Supersectional at 6 p.m. Monday against either Libertyville or Mundelein, who play in the Glenbrook South Sectional.
“It seems like after those [Jacobs] games we kind of came together,” Wolves coach Glen Pecoraro said. “Eight or 10 of those losses we had were one-run or in extra innings. We were in almost every game, but we couldn’t find a way to finish. That gave us a little confidence, a little momentum, they started feeling good about themselves.”
Prairie Ridge (22-16) will throw either left-hander Austin Covers, Jack Myers or sophomore Jon Tieman. Pitching coach Andy Deain told all three to be mentally ready for Saturday. Covers, who tossed a nine-strikeout gem to beat Grant, 1-0, in nine innings for the Grayslake North Regional title, seems the most likely candidate.
Covers was there last year when Dundee-Crown ended the Wolves’ season, 15-4, in a sectional semifinal. Covers wants a different result in this sectional.
“It’s great to be back here,” Covers said. “Before the Jacobs series, we were struggling. We happened to beat them, and they were doing well at that time. It really turned our whole season around since then. As a group, we’ve jelled a lot more. We’re playing as a team and working well together.”
Jacobs (25-13) was determined to get back to the sectional after its first regional and sectional titles in school history. The Golden Eagles defeated Hononegah, 7-1, in the sectional semifinal and hit well against the Indians’ Donovin Sims, who will pitch at Northern Illinois University next season.
“We play a lot of good programs, figure out who the top nine guys are and who the playoff pitchers are, and learn from mistakes [in the regular season],” Jacobs coach Jamie Murray said. “The actual true test is the playoffs. Our kids are loose, and excited about defending a sectional title.”
Murray knows the kind of challenge Prairie Ridge can present. He is quick to point out that Jacobs has not beaten the Wolves in his six years with the varsity (three as pitching coach, three as head coach).
“Their pitching is always pretty solid,” Jacobs left fielder Danny Vandewalker said. “Their pitchers spot the ball well and for some reason, we couldn’t get any clutch hits against them. It seems like the past few weeks, toward the end of conference, we have hit well. We’ve been getting hot and it’s been contagious.”