BIG ROCK – Luke Winkle called it bittersweet.
The Hinckley-Big Rock baseball team set a school record for wins at 21 and took the Little Ten Conference race to the final day of the season, but couldn’t find a way to get past Somonauk in Saturday’s 6-2 defeat in the Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional championship game at Kenny Field.
“We’re done, but we know we did a really good job this season,” Winkle said. “I feel proud of how we did. We haven’t won this many games before in school history, so we at least had some type of success.”
The second-seeded Royals (21-11) didn’t see much success or luck Saturday against a stout defense from the top-seeded Bobcats (26-4).
From the first H-BR at-bat, Somonauk took potential opportunity from the Royals. Bernie Conley started the game with a smash down the left field line that Somonauk third baseman John Wathen smothered and fired to first to beat Conley by a step.
Danny Heerhold later took away a Jacob Ryan line drive in the third with a dive at shortstop that likely would have scored Colin Goodson from second had it gone through.
“They made some nice plays early,” H-BR coach Matt Olson said. “They started off the game with a diving play and got Cory [Bradburn] at second [on a stolen base attempt]. That’s the game of baseball.”
Somonauk scored in each of the first five innings, with Heerhold getting the scoring started with an RBI single off H-BR starter Christian Johnsen, to drive in Wathen in the first. The Bobcats pushed their lead to four runs with Zac Goldsboro’s run-scoring sacrifice fly in the third.
H-BR had just one hit on the day off Somonauk starter Jake Morsch, but it was a two-run home run by Winkle in the fourth that plated Mitch Ruh.
“I was actually looking just to see strike one first,” Winkle said. “And then, I saw the pitch and it was right in my spot, and I went for it. I hit it, and I knew.”
But the Bobcats added two more runs that stemmed from H-BR errors, and ended the game by turning a double play to get Brandon Dillenback at second and Ryan at first, sending Somonauk to the Lena-Winslow Sectional.
“Even though we don’t have anything to show for it, they still set the school record with 21 wins,” Olson said. “No other team has even been close to that. Unfortunately, we had to go through Somonauk and even Indian Creek to get here in a very tough regional. That’s the way it goes. Sometimes, some of the better teams in the state just happen to be in your regional.”