Athlete of the Week
Aiden Smith, Marengo, jr., P-IF
Smith threw his best game of the season against Richmond-Burton in a 5-2 victory Wednesday. He also had a big week at the plate.
Smith struck out five and did not issue a walk in his complete game against R-B. After allowing two early runs, he retired 19 of the next 22 batters. He was 3 for 4 in that game with two RBIs.
He hit a home run in Saturday’s 14-9 loss to Sycamore and was 2 for 4 with a double in Thursday’s 5-1 loss to R-B.
Northwest Herald Power Rankings
1. Huntley (15-4): The Red Raiders fell to No. 2 last week after holding the top spot for two weeks. They’re back after sweeping Crystal Lake South in a series of three close games.
2. Cary-Grove (13-4): The Trojans have won five in a row entering Tuesday and are tied with Prairie Ridge for second place in the Fox Valley Conference. They have six shutouts for the season and have allowed 1.84 runs a game.
3. McHenry (11-6): The Warriors slip past No. 4 Prairie Ridge here by virtue of winning their series against the Wolves last week. Joe Kaminski and Jake Evans held Prairie Ridge to one run in two games.
4. Prairie Ridge (14-5): The Wolves started last week one game ahead of Huntley and finished it one game behind. Ben Harris was outstanding in Saturday’s shutout of McHenry and now will be in the rotation.
5. Hampshire (12-5): The Whip-Purs ride a six-game winning streak into this week, the area’s longest current streak. They have outscored their opponents, 125-58.
Slamming the door: Huntley’s offensive ability to rally late and win games is only half the story. The Red Raiders also need to keep opponents from scoring, and Davis Pasco has proved to be just the one to do it.
Pasco threw 7 1/3 scoreless relief innings last week and picked up two wins against Crystal Lake South. On Wednesday, he threw 3 1/3 innings as Huntley beat South, 7-5, with two runs in the top of the seventh inning.
On Saturday, Pasco (4-0) again stymied the Gators, this time with four shutout innings in a 6-3, eight-inning win.
“He does a great job,” Raiders coach Andy Jakubowski said. “He throws three pitches for strikes. He’s always around the plate; he works quick; he’ll quick-pitch you. He’s our main guy in the bullpen, and we feel very confident when we give him the ball.”
Raining runs: C-G’s pitching and defense have produced the area’s lowest average runs a game (1.84), but the Trojans have been on fire at the plate recently.
C-G has put up 74 runs in its past seven games, with 45 in the past three.
Axe to grind: Prairie Ridge outfielder Chris Rafford is one of the few high school players who uses an Axe Bat, which has a handle like that of an ax that major leaguers such as Mookie Betts and George Springer have made popular.
Some players like the feel of the angled end of the bat, as the bottom hand can drop lower in the front. Rafford said a travel coach suggested it last summer. Rafford was 4 for 4 in Saturday’s 8-0 win at McHenry. He does choke up with two strikes, however, so the end of the bat doesn’t make a difference in those situations.
What to Watch
McHenry vs. Cary-Grove: Both teams are in the FVC race to start this week. The three-game series starts Monday at C-G, then moves to McHenry on Tuesday and back to C-G on Thursday.
Richmond-Burton vs. Burlington Central: R-B, the Kishwaukee River Conference defending champion, has won eight of 11 games after a 1-7 start. The teams play Monday and Thursday at Burlington and Tuesday at R-B.