The pitching match-ups for OPRF's doubleheader with Lyons Township Saturday?#34;Huskies pro prospect Tim Dennehy starting the opener and LT ace Dan Sorce throwing in Game 2?#34;suggested the strong possibility of a split.
Five hours of baseball did, indeed, produce a split, but not in the fashion that may have been expected. After Dennehy was roughed up in OPRF's 7-6 opening loss, Sorce was out-dueled in the nightcap by Ian Berger, who threw a complete-game shutout in a 3-0 victory.
The split kept Lyons (28-2, 15-2) one game ahead of the Huskies in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference standings and set up a conference title game yesterday in Oak Park (after deadline). With a victory, OPRF (23-6, 14-3) would win the conference by virtue of its head-to-head edge over LT, while Lyons would win the title outright with a win.
OPRF had a good shot in Saturday's opener, too, taking a 6-3 lead into the sixth inning. But after retiring eight in a row, Dennehy allowed the first four batters to reach in the sixth and departed with the game tied 6-6. LT started the inning with a single and a walk, before Jack Holden's two-run double and an RBI groundout tied the game.
"Tim really settled down, but then he walked their No. 6 hitter and left a pitch up to their No. 8 hitter [Holden] that got a hit down the line," OPRF head coach Chris Ledbetter said.
Joe Froelich, who was slated to start yesterday, came on and allowed the winning run to score on a wild pitch, although the run was charged to Dennehy. That left the OPRF lefty with an undesirable line for a performance in front of a handful of major league scouts: 5 1/3 innings, nine hits, seven earned runs, one walk, and four strikeouts.
A Philadelphia Phillies scout in attendance spotted representatives from six other big-league clubs, including the Giants, Devil Rays, Cubs, Tigers, Yankees, and Twins, all there to watch Dennehy, who has committed to pitch at Texas next year. The scout said club policy prohibited him from commenting specifically on Dennehy.
Ledbetter said having scouts in attendance is nothing new, and indicated it doesn't faze Dennehy. "There are lots of people around and it's kind of hard to tell who's who, but there have been scouts at every game Tim's pitched this year," he said. "When the radar guns go up, he knows it, but at this point of the year it doesn't affect him.
"He's not playing for the scouts. He wants to do well for his teammates."
Losing the opener meant OPRF needed to take the final two games of the three-game series to win the conference. Berger got the Huskies halfway there with his gem in Game 2. He improved to 7-0 with the shutout in a game that was scoreless after four. Ty Legan put OPRF ahead with an RBI groundout in the fifth. Then Bobby Fratto (3-for-6 on the day) and Matt McFolling stretched the lead with RBI singles in the sixth and seventh.
The Huskies knocked LT starter Kyle Corcoran around for six runs in the first three innings of the first game before he settled down. Ryan Spierowski drove in two and Mike Cunningham and McFolling each had a run and an RBI. But Corcoran proceeded to retire 13 of the last 14 he faced, including 12 in a row at one point. OPRF finally got a baserunner when Berger singled with two outs in the seventh. Pinch runner Simon Noel got the tying run in scoring position by stealing second, but Fratto grounded to short to end the game.
"We'll just have to win the next two," Ledbetter said between games.
The Huskies will take on cross-town rival Fenwick on Monday at UIC (7:30 p.m.).