By Marty Farmer
It's perhaps appropriate that each Oak Park and River Forest High School softball player has "theme music" as she walks up to the plate. After all, the Huskies have been putting on a show all season offensively with a potent and deep lineup producing 10 runs per game.
"Everybody contributes in our lineup and we've been able to string a lot of hits together," OPRF catcher Sophie Mouros said. "I think we've been able to get a lot of runners on base and then somebody comes up with a home run or big hit. [OPRF first baseman] Libby Foster has been great in those situations this year. We're hitting the ball well and consistently scoring a lot of runs."
Until Saturday. The Huskies' high-scoring narrative took a turn for the worse as their bats fell silent, losing both games of a doubleheader against host New Trier. The Trevians (14-1) dominated from start to finish, and outscored OPRF 19-1 overall, to claim an impressive twinbill sweep.
OPRF (11-6, 2-0 West Suburban Conference Silver Division) also saw its six-game winning streak snapped last week when visiting Richards scored six runs over the first three innings, en route to a 7-5 victory on Friday. While the loss to the Bulldogs wasn't nearly as lopsided as the New Trier debacle, a flat start proved too much to overcome for OPRF.
Emily Wetzel belted a two-run homer over the left field fence in the first inning to put Richards up 2-0. The Bulldogs tacked on three runs in the second and another run in the third to build a 6-0 lead, aided in part by mostly mental and a few physical errors from OPRF.
To the Huskies' credit, a late rally transformed the game into an intense thriller. After Foster slapped a double scoring Mouros to get OPRF on the board in the fourth, the Huskies really applied the pressure in the sixth. Foster and second baseman Elaine Warner both slugged two-run homers to suddenly pull OPRF to 6-5.
In the seventh, however, Wetzel was at it again, crushing a double over the head of OPRF centerfielder Samantha Linde to score Sara Kiziak and provide the Bulldogs a valuable insurance run. Although she didn't catch Wetzel's rocket to center, Linde gave a tremendous effort knocking down a part of the outfield wall trying to catch the ball.
OPRF pitcher Emily Richardson hit a sac fly in the seventh to whittle the deficit to 7-6, but Richards' winning pitcher, Sara Kiziak (8-3), induced Foster and Nina Steele to hit popouts with two runners aboard to end the game.
Foster finished 2-for-4 with a two-run homer and three RBIs, while Warner went 2-for-3 with a two-run homer and a run scored. Mouros was 2-for-4 with a double. Wetzel led Richards with three hits and three RBIs, while Molly Pohrebny, Hailey Czerwinski and Abby Gentile all finished 2-for-3 for the Bulldogs (11-4).
Despite the disappointing nonconference losses to New Trier and Richards, OPRF performed much better within West Suburban Conference play during the early portion of last week. After walloping Proviso West [20-0] and Morton [11-1], the Huskies notched a 7-5 victory against highly regarded Downers Grove North on April 23.
Foster blasted a game-winning grand slam in the fifth against the Trojans as OPRF rallied. Steele (3-for-3), Taylor Arends (2-for-3) and Mouros (2-for-4) provided offensive support. Senior pitcher Emma Baldwin worked 4 2/3 innings and gave up five runs (only three earned). She also scattered five hits, walked none and struck out 10. Richardson earned the win in relief with 2 1/3 innings of scoreless work.
"We had an amazing win over Downers [Grove North]," Warner said. "Overall, we're playing pretty well, but we have to start every game strong and not have any letdowns."
Aside from hitting, the Huskies feature a fairly formidable starting rotation in Baldwin, Richardson, Steele and highly touted freshman Chardonnay Harris (currently injured).
"There's a lot of variety with our pitchers," Mouros said. "Emily is more of a power pitcher while Nina has great movement. Emma has both speed and movement on her pitchers, which is a double whammy for the other teams."
Baldwin recently committed to DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., where she'll play softball and field hockey.