JOLIET – When it was all over – a furious seventh-inning Huntley rally, a debatable fair-foul call, a premature fireworks celebration – Red Raiders coach Andy Jakubowski personally handed the second-place medals to each and every one of his players, sharing some long hugs on his way down the first-base line.
“We need every single one of those guys and everybody had a hand in the success in finishing second in state,” Jakubowski said. “I just wanted to tell them that I appreciated everything they’ve given us.”
The Red Raiders lost the IHSA Class 4A state championship game, 4-3, to Plainfield North on Saturday, but not before a late comeback attempt that elicited flashbacks to Huntley's three-run rally against McHenry in the sectional semifinals.
Huntley, trailing 4-1 entering the seventh on Saturday, took an extended huddle before the inning.
“We were all saying we love each other and that we’ve got each other’s back,” catcher Kamrin Hoffmann said. “Just keep fighting until the last out.”
Jordan Goldstein led off the comeback effort by taking a pitch in the back.
“That’s a good rally starter there,” Goldstein said. “It didn’t really hurt, it got me right underneath the shoulder blade. With all the adrenaline, I didn’t feel it.
Hoffmann then clubbed a double to put runners on second and third.
“I get to third base, I’m like, ‘Oh no, we’re going to do it again,’” Goldstein said. “We’re going to come back.”
With cleanup hitter Matt Rodriguez coming to the plate, the Red Raiders had to like situation. Rodriguez led Huntley with five home runs and 35 RBIs coming into the game.
“I started to see visions of what happened in the sectional semifinals,” Jakubowski said.
Rodriguez hit a sacrifice fly, scoring one run. Hunter Rumachik hit an infield single, scoring another run. A.J. Henkle fought through a nine-pitch at bat, fouling off three pitches with two strikes, only to fly out to right.
“We’ve been working two-strike approaches all year,” Goldstein said. “We were just trying to foul off as many pitches as we can."
Zach Model came to the plate as Huntley’s last chance. Rumachik stole second base to put the tying run in scoring position.
“You’ve got a runner at second base, winning run at the plate in a state championship game, you can’t ask for much more,” Jakubowski said.
At one point, Model hit a foul ball off his leg that dribbled into fair territory. Plainfield North stepped on first base and fireworks exploded in center field. The celebration was premature however – foul ball.
Moments later, Plainfield North’s Eben Heine struck out Model for the final out.
After the trophies were awarded, Jakubowski and his team huddled up one last time in right field. The seniors took a moment longer with their coach.
“No matter what happens down the road, we’re all going to remember this moment,” Hoffmann said. “How we came back and fought. Coach J is going to be there for us if we need anything down the road. It got emotional for us there down at the end, for sure.”