100 fans came out April 2 on a sunny but chilly afternoon to watch crosstown rivals Oak Park and River Forest and Fenwick in their only scheduled softball contest of the season. The Fenwick fans left disappointed but perhaps not surprised when powerhouse OPRF won their fifth straight game of this early season, defeating the Friars 8-0. The Friars are now 1-1 after winning their season opener 10-0 over Mother Guerin.
On Saturday Fenwick sophomore Lally Bridget pounded the first pitch of the game deep into center field, but the Huskies shut the Friars down with a double play, one of two double plays executed by a very quick Huskies infield. Six Friars reached base on scattered hits or errors, but the Huskies' excellent pitching and strong defense prevented any Friars from scoring.
Junior Eleanor Comiskey took the loss for the Friars and was relieved in the 5th inning by Sophomore Kelly Erin. Neither pitcher had any luck against the relentless Huskies.
Coach Mel Kolbusz of OPRF said, "We've won five games so far. That's good, but it's very early yet." Looking at different combinations and testing players for later in the season, Coach Kolbusz shifted various players around the field and behind the plate, giving them valuable game experience while he watched their performance.
Kolbusz explained, "We have to try different combinations and figure out how things are going to work together. We are a very deep team and very talented."
Pitching has been a Huskies strength for several years and has been strong so far this season. Junior A.J. Snow is new to the varsity squad and had her first start of the season, earning the win by shutting down the Friars for 4 innings. Snow faced only 14 batters, allowing just two hits and one walk.
Freshman Seana Stillson relieved Snow in the 5th inning and dominated the Friars for the rest of the game. Stillson's somewhat unorthodox delivery creates a fast ball with good zip and control. She also pulled the sting several times on a change-up that left the Friars swinging at air. Snow and Stillson join a very strong Huskies pitching staff that features senior Jane Nightengale and junior Holly Roadruck.
The Huskies talent and all-around depth was on display with seven batters getting hits, led by seniors Erika Rosenwinkel and Nightengale. Rosenwinkel, the Huskies' catcher, continued her strong hitting this season with 3 hits, 3 RBIs and a run. Her play behind the plate was also flawless. Nightengale is best known for her pitching but this time contributed not on the mound but in the field and at the plate with two doubles and three RBIs. Nightengale's extra-baggers and RBIs have already surpassed her season totals from last year.
"The team has more confidence in me this year," she said. "Getting those hits, making a contribution, that feels good. I like batting and just have to make sure I don't leave runners on base. We are really playing like a team."
The rambunctious Huskies have outscored their opponents 30-3 in this young season and are indeed playing and sounding like a team. They are seldom seated or quiet in the dugout, preferring to drape themselves over the fence or stand on the bench to chant and encourage their teammates. On the field, the high-spirited infielders chatter to the pitcher and themselves non-stop.
Nightengale explained, "We cheer for each other and feel like a team where everyone has to contribute and work together. We have a lot of faith in each other."
That faith is well founded, based on the first five games of the season.
The next two Huskies games are Thursday at home against Sandburg and Monday April 11 at Queen of Peace. The Friars play today at Joliet Catholic Academy and Saturday at home against Providence Catholic.