CRYSTAL LAKE – There was excitement, along with some surprise, that the McHenry County Hurricanes were still playing Sunday in the McHenry County Youth Sports Association Summer International Championships.
Yet this was why 13U Hurricanes coach Keith Nisenson put together such a demanding schedule, to toughen up his team for its final run at Lippold Park.
The Hurricanes played their best baseball of the summer Saturday, winning three games in the Gold Bracket to advance to the semifinals against Select Gold Baseball. They could not quite capture that magic again Sunday as they fell to Select Gold, 5-3.
The Hurricanes did go down swinging, scoring all three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and eventually sending the tying run to the plate.
“It was nice not to roll over and completely die, and score some runs in the seventh,” Nisenson said. “I’m so proud of these boys, they exceeded expectations. What went on since Wednesday here was a real quality effort by our boys.”
The Hurricanes fell behind 3-0 after the first inning as Select starter Bryce Moskiewicz threw five innings of one-hit ball, striking out four. When the Hurricanes’ bats got going, it was too late.
“We didn’t jump on the first-pitch fastball enough,” Hurricanes catcher-third baseman Pierson Gibis said. “We did great here. We had one game here where we came up short at the end, but by far this was our best tournament. [Saturday] was crazy. We were all fired up every game. It was really exciting.”
The Hurricanes (39-28-1) outscored their foes, 26-1, on Saturday to make the semifinals. They knew they were seeing a strong team in Select Gold at that point.
“We were prepared,” Nisenson said. “We knew Select is a lot better than their 1-3 seeding record [from pool play]. They’ve been in championship games all season long. We just didn’t execute. We hit a lot of hard balls right to them and they didn’t make mistakes.”
Next Level Tornadoes defeated Select Gold, 10-1, in the championship game. The Hurricanes appreciated the challenging tournament schedule this summer.
“It was a really good way to do it,” said Angelo Camalieri, a pitcher and extra hitter. “We got to travel a little bit and play better teams. We were used to this level and all the other teams that did the same as us. It was awesome. We had some great games and lost only two. We worked our hearts out.”
The Hurricanes lose a few players who will move up to 15U, but most of the team will remain intact next season at 14U.
“Nine of us have been together since they were 9 years old,” Nisenson said. “We’re going to send off a couple eight-graders to 15U and probably keep the majority of them if they come to tryouts.”
In the 13U Silver Bracket championship game, Lake in the Hills Thunder Gold defeated the Crystal Lake Bombers, 15-6. The Thunder beat the Algonquin Storm, 7-4, in a semifinal game and the Bombers defeated the Mount Prospect Mavericks, 7-0.