HUNTLEY – After trailing for the first time in the postseason, Huntley's softball team took a patient approach in the bottom of the second inning against McHenry pitcher Ashley Dehmlow.
The Red Raiders had only one hit in the inning, but drew four walks and scored three runs, forcing the Warriors senior to throw 42 pitches.
Huntley sent 15 batters to the plate in the first two innings and continued to grind out long at-bats to hand the Warriors a 12-2 loss in five innings in a Class 4A Huntley Sectional semifinal on Thursday.
The win was the Red Raiders' 15th straight and puts them into the championship against Barrington at 11 a.m. Saturday. Barrington (32-3) has eliminated Huntley from the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, including last year's sectional final.
Huntley (32-5) has won all three of their postseason games by a 10-run mercy rule, outscoring their opponents, 39-3. The Raiders (32-5) are looking for their first sectional championship in school history.
"They just keep coming at you," Warriors coach John DiFrancesca said. "They can play small ball, they can play long ball, and they just make good contact with the ball. They are always right there, always putting the pressure on."
Huntley's first four batters reached base safely in 14 of 16 plate appearances. Tiffany Giese went 2 for 2 with two walks and three runs, Marley Reicher went 3 for 4 with three runs and an RBI, and Sofia Tenuta (2 for 2, 3 RBIs) and Autumn Kasal (1 for 2, two runs, RBI) each walked twice.
McHenry (14-17) took a 2-1 lead in the top of the second on an RBI hit from Tiffany Kirk, scoring Lauren Sena. The throw in from right field got away, also allowing Taylor Zoephel to score from second with two outs.
"It was frustrating how it happened, but we got through it," said Giese, who improved to 24-2 on the season. "It was early in the game, and we talked about that. Don't get flustered and don't press."
In the bottom of the second, Huntley sent nine to the plate to take a 4-2 lead with RBIs from Reicher, Kasal and Grace Kutz. Giese added an RBI single in the third. Huntley added three runs in the fourth and four in the fifth.
Teagan O'Rilley ended the game with a two-run single as the Raiders sent six to the plate without recording an out.
McHenry, which has won two straight regional titles, graduates five seniors: Dehmlow, Lexi Larson, Mannon Amelio, Madison Drake and Tiffany Kirk.
"It's very hard to say goodbye to five seniors, and yet life goes on," DiFrancesca said. "But we're blessed with the youth that's coming up. I think we're going to have a nice balance."
One of Huntley's five losses this year came against Barrington – a 4-3 loss on March 31. In that game, the Raiders took a 3-2 lead in the top of the seventh before the Fillies scored two in the bottom half.
"We're all very pumped, considering the last game was so close," Kasal said. "I think we all just want to go back and take it to them again."
STAR OF THE GAME
Tiffany Giese, Huntley, sr., P
Giese reached base in all four plate appearances, scoring three runs with an RBI and a stolen base. In the circle, she held McHenry to two runs on six hits for her 24th win.
32: Wins for Huntley, a program record.
AND ANOTHER THING …
Huntley senior left fielder Cailyn Pienschke left her feet to make a diving catch and rob McHenry’s Jocelyn Currie of extra bases in the second inning.
Class 4A Huntley Sectional
Huntley 12, McHenry 2 (5 inn.)
McHenry 020 00 – 2 6 4
Huntley 131 34 – 12 12 1
WP: Giese (5IP, 6H, 2R, 1ER, 0BB, 3K). LP: Dehmlow (3IP, 6H, 8R, 5ER, 6BB, 1K).
Top hitters–McHenry: Kirk 2-2 (RBI), T. Zoephel 1-2 (SB). Huntley: Giese 2-2 (RBI, 3R, SB), Reicher 3-4 (RBI, 3R, SB), Tenuta 2-2 (3RBI), Kasal 1-2 (RBI, 2R), O’Rilley 1-3 (3RBI), Berkmeyer 1-3 (RBI).