Not being the host of a regional in the playoffs is fine by Fenwick head baseball coach Dave Hogan, especially when you're hosting a sectional.
The third seeded Friars (23-9, 14-6) shouldn't have a problem adding another regional title trophy to their already extensive hardware collection when they kick off the Clemente Regional today (Wednesday), taking on either Lincoln Park or Orr. The title game will be held at Clemente on Saturday (11 a.m.) and will likely involve Fenwick taking on either the host or Westinghouse.
The first inkling of difficulty shouldn't hit the Friars until they reach familiar ground June 2 to take on the winner of the Morton Regional at the Priory. Morton, a No. 7 seed in the sectional, is likely to escape its own regional unscathed, and shouldn't pose too much of a problem for the hot-hitting Friars. But Hogan, who has 25 years coaching experience and boasts a career record of 563-269, said he's not taking any team for granted.
"Anything can happen in the regional and anything can happen in the sectional, and it usually does," he said. "The good thing is we've played exceptional baseball the last few weeks of the season, and knowing that, I like our chances. We can play with anybody."
While Fenwick's defense has been less than stellar throughout the season, the Friars have made up for it with a power-hitting offense. The team's overall batting average hasn't dipped below .350 since early April thanks mostly to big-hitters Jack Horrigan, Joe Carlini, Pat Brady and Jim Murphy, all of which are currently batting .500 or within 20 points of the mark. Murphy exploded for seven consecutive hits in late March, which included three straight home runs. The senior slugger racked up 13 RBIs in three consecutive games in that span.
The Friars will need the bulk of their battering ram if they end up facing cross-town rival and fifth-ranked OPRF (26-7) in the Fenwick Sectional title game on June 4. The team failed to score any runs against the Huskies in a 7-0 loss on Monday at UIC.
If they hope to play at Elfstrom Stadium in Geneva, the Friars will need to steer clear of miscues that have popped up on occasion this season. In a 6-4 loss to Providence on April 20, the team ended five of the seven innings on called third strikes with runners in scoring position. The Friars also stranded 12 runners on base in a 6-5 loss to St. Rita, and a mental lapse led to a doubleheader split with Loyola earlier this month when a runner scored from third while the catcher and pitcher conferred on the mound.
"It was not one of our better moments," said Hogan at the time.
A sectional title victory over a rival could easily wash away such moments.