Huskies in step with last year's success

• Weather pushes off top-ranked Lake Park yet again.

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By BRAD SPENCER

OPRF head softball coach Mel Kolbusz huddled to keep warm in his primo seat behind home plate during Saturday's chilly ballgame, hoping to see his team pull out a victory. But Latroy Hawkins blew a save opportunity and the Cubs lost to the Pirates 4-3.

The frigid conditions on Saturday postponed the Huskies' much-anticipated make-up game against No. 1-ranked Lake Park, allowing Kolbusz to brave the wintry temperatures at Wrigley Field. Lately, the tenured head coach has been experiencing a sense of déjà vu with his softball team and with the Cubs. Before OPRF's game against Proviso West on Monday evening, his team was 12-4 overall and 1-1 in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference, exactly where it was last season before the Huskies rattled off 10 straight victories on their way to finishing runner-up at the IHSA Softball State championship. That's why Kolbusz wasn't brooding over April 20's 8-4 loss to conference foe Glenbard West (13-3).

"Glenbard West has a few really good hitters and we kind of let the game get away from us," he said. "But I'm not worried about the entire season getting away from us just because of a couple of losses."

The Huskies jumped off to a 4-2 lead before Glenbard West's bats came alive and took advantage of windy conditions. The Hilltoppers rocked a 2-run homer in the fifth and another in the seventh. It was the second and third homers of the game for Glenbard West.

"I can't tell you the last time I saw a softball team hit three homeruns in one game off of us," said Kolbusz.

The Huskies were stymied by pitcher Stephanie Doyle, who allowed just four hits and retired 14 of 15 batters in a row at one time in the game. Anne Schraufnagel and Kealon Waldron both had RBI singles for OPRF. Three errors in the field didn't help things.

"Three errors is a little uncharacteristic of our team," said Kolbusz. "Fielding is something we work very hard at."

Freshman Seana Stillson (2-1) started for OPRF and went five innings. Kolbusz had no regrets going with his young pitcher in a big conference game.

"She has tremendous confidence, is a quality pitcher and has a lot of talent," he said of Stillson.

Despite the conference loss, Kolbusz was optimistic his Huskies would rebound this week.

"A conference title is our goal right now. That's something we don't want to look past," he said. "We'll have to take on Glenbard West on their field, but we'll be ready."

The Huskies, who have won conference 12 out of the last 13 seasons, are in pursuit of their seventh straight WSC title. They shutout Proviso West handily 10-0 on Monday.

"I know a lot of people were looking forward to the game against Lake Park, the team and myself included," said Kolbusz regarding the match-up originally scheduled for March 26. "Hopefully we'll be able to make up the make up at some point. But right now we just want to go out and play competitively against everyone."

What was it that awakened Kolbusz from the sense of déjà vu he was experiencing? It was when the Cubs' Corey Patterson struck out in the bottom of the ninth to close out the game on Saturday. Kolbusz had been in attendance at a similar Cubs game last season, when Patterson hit a walk-off homer to win the game.

The Huskies travel to York today (Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.) and Willowbrook on Friday (4:30 p.m.).

OPRF's Jane Nightengale catches a hard line drive for the first out of the second inning.

Josh Hawkins/Wednesday Journal

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