Baseball: Burlington Central knocks out Marengo
By Gene Chamberlain For Sun-Times Media May 23, 2012 8:32PM
Updated: July 2, 2012 10:03AM
Burlington Central’s Ray Hunnicutt was a line-drive hitter turned longball hitter Wednesday, while teammate Michael Scott was a starter turned closer.
The two altered their roles to help the top-seeded Rockets pull away for an 8-4 victory over a surprisingly tough fourth-seeded Marengo team in the semifinals of the Class 3A Hampshire Regional, earning Central a spot in Saturday’s 11 a.m. finals.
“I don’t know what was happening today,” said Hunnicutt. “I was just seeing the ball well and I hit it well today. It was one of those days.”
Hunnicutt tripled to left-center leading off the second inning and scored the game’s first run on Scott’s RBI single. Then he got a pitch up in the same area in the next inning and with a very similar swing rode it over the fence in left-center for his third home run and a 6-2 Central lead.
Normally, he said he’s looking for the liner and a triple like in the second.
“That’s what I was trying to do (on the home run) — I guess it just didn’t happen,” he joked.
The Rockets scored four in the second, three coming in after Hunnicutt’s run when leadoff hitter Zach Ranney batted with the bases full and blasted a three-run double to left.
Marengo came back with two in the third off winning pitcher Riley Jensen on Jesse Darlington’s sacrifice fly and Justin Vogel’s RBI single. And after Hunnicutt’s two-run home run, the Indians closed within 6-4 in the fifth on a bases-loaded walk and Central outfield error.
The Indians had the bases loaded with one out and on came Scott, who had been a reliever in the early season, before becoming a starter. With the tying runs in scoring position, he got Kent Ganvik and Dan Domek looking at fastballs for third strikes and Marengo didn’t get another hit the rest of the game against his pitching.
“I love it when people are on base — to just shut them down,” Scott said. “In the playoffs, that’s big.”
Central coach Kyle Nelson went to Scott in relief of Jensen (8-2) even though Jensen had allowed just three hits in four-plus innings. But Jensen had walked three, hit a batter and had trouble locating the strike zone much of the day.
“Michael has been big for us all year,” Nelson said. “I had lots of confidence going to him in that situation. It’s nice to have a guy who can come in out of the bullpen and throw strikes and compete like that.
“It was just an odd day for Riley. Riley’s M.O. all year has been throwing strikes and getting guys to hit ground balls. It was one of those days when he just didn’t have it. He did the best he could with what he had today.”
Scott struck out three in relief and benefited from a double play in the sixth when he issued his only walk.
Central came up with an insurance run when Scott singled home Hunnicutt in the fifth, then Hunnicutt drove in a run with a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Hunnicutt was 2-for-2 with three runs scored and Scott 2-for-4 with a run and two RBI.
Starter Matt Conroy (4-5) took the loss for Marengo. Indians coach Josh Maas earned accolades afterward from Central players he formerly coached as a Rockets assistant. Marengo finished 15-17 after winning three the previous season.
“To go up against a team that everyone is expecting them to just pound you into the ground and put out that kind of effort, I was extra proud of our guys,” he said.
Central’s Saturday game will be against the winner of Thursday’s contest between second-seeded Sycamore and third-seeded Crystal Lake Central.