By Bob Balgemann


MACHESNEY PARK – A few years ago Harlem’s varsity baseball team played 10 games during the month of March.

Not so this season though the Huskies were able to play three times through March 24 and won all of them against non-conference opponents.

The 2016 opener against Stillman Valley was canceled as was the most recent outing with McHenry. But in between Harlem managed to dispose of Rochelle, Waubonsie Valley and Oregon.

Harlem bats were on target in the first inning against Rochelle, producing three runs. The lead was 5-1 by the fourth and then the hosts held on to win, 5-4.

T.J. Chance, one of a large group of seniors on this year’s team, was the starting pitcher and he threw four innings, recording eight strikeouts. Senior Joey Parsons came on in relief and then the only junior in that group, Jake Nimtz, put the finishing touches on the victory.

He pitched out of an inherited jam in the top of the seventh when the Hubs put the tying and go-ahead runs on base. In a dramatic finish, he struck out the only batter he faced to pick up a save while preserving the win.

Yet another senior, Tyler Dietz, had two base hits and drove in two runs, including the game winner. Senior Aaron Cusimano also had two hits.

Waubonsie Valley in Aurora is a large school with more than 2,500 students and a successful baseball program. The Warriors finished 28-6 last year and have won the DuPage Valley Conference championship for the past two seasons. They have two Division I pitchers including a left-hander, who the Huskies faced, who’s bound for Western Michigan University.

Senior Zach Jones go the start for Harlem and allowed just three unearned runs in his four innings of work. Cusimano came on in relief, pitched three innings and wound up with the save in the stunning, come-from-behind 4-3 win.

After being held scoreless for six innings and trailing, 3-0, Harlem’s winning rally started when Chance doubled off the center field wall in the top of the seventh. The Huskies had five hits in that inning including a two-out, two-run single from senior Bryce Goodall. He had an excellent day offensively, going a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate.

Most recently Harlem defeated Oregon, 6-2, jumping off with two runs in the first inning on a double by senior Cody Paholski, a single by Chance and a couple of walks. Chance then launched a 360-foot home run that was good for two more runs in the third.

Nimtz went six innings, longest stint by a starter so far this season, and struck out 13 batters.

The Huskies were scheduled to play Elgin, Sycamore and DeKalb earlier this week. They’re due for a long road trip this weekend, against Belleville East, Normal West and Naperville Central. The weekend games are in downstate O’Fallon, near St. Louis.

Next Wednesday they will resume their non-conference schedule at home for a 5 p.m. contest with Crystal Lake South.

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