ROSELLE – After Huntley's baseball team exited the spring playoffs earlier than expected this past season, Mark Skonieczny didn't want to wait a full year for redemption.
Turns out, he might not have to.
On Thursday, the senior hit two triples and a double that together drove in five runs, and Huntley's pitching rotation continued its dominance as the eighth-seeded Red Raiders defeated third-seeded Lake Park, 12-2, in five innings in the Lake Park Regional championship of the Phil Lawler Classic.
With the win, Huntley earns its first trip to the Summer State Final 8 in Lisle, where it will take on Libertyville in the first round at 3 p.m. Monday at Benedictine University.
"This helps us tremendously leading into next spring," Skonieczny said. "It shows that we're back, and we're ready to fire again. It gives a name back to Huntley baseball."
Starting pitcher Kyle Sabie's four-seam fastball and changeup proved a nearly unhittable combo for the Lancers. In five innings on the mound, the senior allowed three hits, struck out seven and walked five. He allowed one earned run.
Huntley coach Andy Jakubowski said Sabie, who pitched out of the bullpen and occasionally started in the spring, will take on a larger role next season.
"His changeup was working for him today, and really there were two hard-hit balls hit off him all day," Jakubowski said. "I thought he did a tremendous job against a very good Lake Park team."
In the first inning, Skonieczny crushed a blast that bounced off the fence 370 feet away in straightaway center field to score lead-off hitter Troy Cantu. Junior newcomer Matt Blain kept the momentum going three batters later with a two-run double to left.
Blain was one of three juniors in the Red Raiders' lineup Thursday, and Jakubowski said he's proud of how they've progressed despite his team's limited practice time.
"We don't have the ability to pratice in the summer because our facilities are down," he said. "And the way that we have jelled from the first game to where we are now, the juniors are starting to buy in, and they're understanding everything."
Lake Park scored its lone runs in the bottom of the fifth inning after a runner scored on an error and another on a fielder's choice. It was just Huntley's third error in its four games this week in which the Red Raiders have defeated their opponents a combined 24-3.
Jakubowski, too, didn't want to wait until next spring to make up for a foiled playoff run.
"I told them, from a personal level, this is a little gratifying, based upon what we went through at the end of the season," he said. "It's a nice little springboard as we go into 2014."