Championship or bust

Varsity baseball fights their way into sectionals, super-sectionals and the state championship for the first time in MCHS history



Varsity baseball players celebrate runs earned against Jacobs on April 14 at Peterson Park. The team fought its way through sectionals and super-sectionals on its way to the state championship for the first time in school history.

Mackenzie Sroka, Sports Editor

The crowd goes silent as the pitcher tosses the ball across the plate. Ricky Powell, a varsity baseball player, hits the ball and the team runs a double, winning the game for McHenry to head on to the state tournament. The crowd of McHenry students and family yells in excitement.

In order to make it to the state championships, the varsity baseball team has undergone a long tiresome process. 

“The process of getting to play for a state championship starts back in March with tryouts,” explained Brian Rockweiler, varsity baseball head coach. “Then we have the regular season, where we play non-conference and conference games to prepare us to play in the post-season. 

“The post-season,” Rockweiler adds, “is a single elimination tournament which begins with regionals. Regionals consist of winning two games, which we did. Then we advanced to sectionals, which is winning two more games. We did that winning the first sectional title in school history.” 

The team then advanced to super-sectionals, making them one of the final eight teams. “We won that game,” Rockweiler says, “which advances us to the state tournament and means that we are one of four teams still left. The process of getting to state is a culmination of all the hard work and practice that the players have put in the whole season.” 

Most players have dreamed and had the goal to compete for a state title since the beginning of their career at MCHS. After the 2021 season, this goal had a chance at becoming a reality.

“I knew after last year’s season was over,” explained Eddie Synek, a varsity baseball player. “We all had a glimpse of what varsity baseball was like, we had a very realistic chance at making it to state this year. But it’s been a goal for me ever since I started at McHenry in 2018.”

This season’s goal, to make it to state and compete to win, was by the coach on day one of the season, which the players agreed and dedicated themselves to it.

“Since day one when we walked in the gym at [Freshman] Campus,” described Cooper Cohn, a varsity baseball player, “coach said we have what it takes to go to Joliet. It’s not gonna be easy but it’s where this team belongs. He brought us downstairs to the dance room and said ‘championship or bust’ (COB). Since then we kept our heads down and did our thing.” 

During the first couple games, the team experienced both ups and downs, but soon figured out a system that earned them a 24-8 record going into the postseason. This showed the team that state was within reach. 

The team’s successful system was simple: concentrate on the basics of baseball and stay focused on the field. 

“The process has been and will stay simple: play our game,” described Cohn. “Don’t worry about the other things going on outside of the field. Do what we do best.” 

“‘COB’ didn’t really settle in with us until about 10 games in, when we started to win game after game,” stated Kyle Kaempf, a varsity baseball player.

With this mindset the team was able to keep pushing forward during the season and the post-season.

“We’ve been unstoppable,” explained Kaempf. “Pitching has been dominant and our hitting has really been great. In the playoffs, though, the process has been a little tougher. We’ve had tight games and beat some really good teams.”

While the players have worked hard at their sport for many years, their dedication at the end of the school year and into their summer allowed the successful streak to continue.

“We talk all the time about how they have to stay in the moment and how they have been preparing their entire baseball careers for this,” says Cody Freund, assistant varsity baseball coach.

 “A lot of credit goes to what they do behind the scenes—working with coach [John] Beerbower and our other strength teachers, getting extra reps in on their own time before and after practice, and then showing up and working hard every single day in practice. I honestly don’t know if they realize how hard they worked for this.”

This hard work and dedication to baseball and their team has allowed the team to have the opportunity to reach a goal many have had since a younger age.

“Some of us have worked years and years just for this moment,” described Synek, “and opportunity and it feels so good to finally be at that point. The only thing left to do it finish the job.”

After all their hard work, competing in the state tournament was just the reward they were hoping for. 

“All the practices and games and effort we have put into the season is finally paying off,” explained Powell going into state. “It has had its rough spots and smooth spots. This experience of getting to state and having this opportunity is something I will never forget in my lifetime.”

For the coaches, getting the chance to play in the state tournament is rewarding. 

“This has by far been the coolest experience of my coaching career,” described Freund, “especially with the group that we’re doing this with. Getting to experience this with my brother Cooper Cohn has been unbelievable. But I have also coached a lot of these guys like Eddie Synek, Gavin Micklinghoff, Connor Rodgers, Logan Wirtz, Cole Kersten, and Ricky Powell for multiple years now (some since they were 12-13 years old), so getting to be a part of this ride their senior year is pretty special.” 

“To be honest,” he concludes, “the feeling of seeing these guys do what they are doing is hard for me to put into words.” 

Compared to previous years and program history, this has been the most successful baseball team at MCHS. 

“This season has been the most successful in our program’s history,” stated Freund. “We won the first Sectional Championship in program history and then we won our super-sectional to make it down state for the first time as well.” 

Making school history has been an incredible feeling for not only the players but for the school, community, coaches and students. To show their support members of the community gathered at MCHS to give a send off to the team going to the state tournament by cheering for them as they walked through the halls, going to the bus, as they left the school, and much more in between. 

“This isn’t just a great feeling for me but it’s even better for the school and town of McHenry,” explained Cohn. “We hear our student section say ‘represent the Mac’ all the time, and we did it. Nobody can take that away from the team. Making history is awesome.”

“I think we have been able to get to this point because all of us have believed that we are capable of it,” described Powell. “We have had this thought and mindset that we are good enough to be here and to go make it happen. We play for each other and for the team, and that is a big part. Everyone wants to win and everyone wants to be there at every game and practice. We are a very tight team, we play for each other, we all cared and wanted to do it, and we believed we could.”

Since this has been the most successful team in program history, most outside schools did not expect the team they competed against.

“I think about how at the beginning of the year,” explained Freund, “nobody was really thinking about us as a legitimate contender and the guys kind of took that personally and used it as motivation. They like to fly under the radar a little bit and they want to prove everybody who doubts them wrong.”

Even going into the state tournament, not many schools took the team seriously because they were from McHenry, but the team proved everyone wrong during regionals, sectionals and super-sectionals.

“Nobody believed in us, and they still don’t,” described Synek. “Nobody thought we’d be where we are, have the record we have, and beaten all the teams we have. I’m so incredibly proud of everyone on this team, and I hope we win the whole thing and prove everybody wrong like we’ve been doing.”

The players’ belief in themselves and the team, along with their passion for baseball, is something special that the coaches will take away from the season.

“It’s been the passion and emotion that our players have played with,” explains Freund, “You can see how much it means to each one of them and how bad they want it.To pick one moment in particular though, it would have to be Ricky Powell’s game winning double that sent us to state — bottom of the 11th inning, down 1-0, two outs, and a full count. It’s the kind of moment every kid dreams about in their backyard.”

Following their super-sectional win, the team played at the state tournament on June 10 at 5 p.m. at DuPage Medical Group Field in Joliet and then played the next day at 3 p.m. The Warriors lost their first game 0-12 against Mundelelin, and then lost on Saturday against Brother Rice 4-14 during the third place game, according to MaxPreps

While the team placed fourth in the state tournament, they made it farther than any other McHenry team, and hope to make it even farther in following seasons. This was the first time that the Warriors achieved their goal of making it to state, all while accomplishing many other titles, making them a team worthy MCHS history that’ll be remembered for a long time.