Road downstate paved smooth for Huskies

Team looks poised for return trip

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By BRAD SPENCER

The 14 returning OPRF softball players who suffered through that gut-wrenching State title loss last year where a 6-0 lead went south in a hurry, no-doubt would like to erase that one particular moment from their minds. The best chance they have is returning to the scene of the crime this year. With a versatile and talented squad and a relatively soft playoff schedule, the road to vindication looks more than promising.

The Huskies (27-6) look poised for yet another trip downstate to East Peoria, a locale the program knows well. The Huskies have traveled to State seven times since 1991, finishing runner-up last year and third in 2003.

As good as this team is (ranked fifth in the state by both dailies and justly awarded a No. 1 seed in the sectional) it makes sense to skip past breaking down their own regional and dig right into the St. Ignatius Sectional, where the Huskies are bound to see either the host or No. 5 seed Elmwood Park in the opening round on June 1. Neither team should pose much of a threat to the Huskies, who back in April clobbered Elmwood Park 12-0 in five innings. The sectional title game set for June 4 will definitely make for a well-deserved fan draw, assuming Fenwick and Trinity bust out of their respective regionals. But, again, neither team matches up equally to OPRF, a team loaded with good hitting and dominant pitching. The Huskies shut out the Friars (7-19) 8-0 in early April, and Trinity is a young team. Things couldn't be better for the Huskies.

This leads us to the Super-sectional on June 6, hosted by none other than OPRF. On their home field, the Huskies are likely to see some tough competition in either New Trier or Glenbrook North. Two weeks ago, OPRF allowed the Trevians to scatter 11 hits, and the Huskies lost 4-1.

The loss to New Trier, like that of last year's State championship, should only fuel OPRF. Head coach Mel Kolbusz has at his disposal a bevy of talented hurlers (A.J. Snow, Jane Nightengale, Holly Roadruck), including freshman Seana Stillson who notched her seventh win of her high school career with a five-hit outing against Glenbard South Friday. The Huskies won 4-1. Nightengale (7-2) pitched a two-hitter in a 5-0 shutout of Hinsdale Central on May 18, and Roadruck (10-3) threw a three-hitter in a 6-0 smothering of York on Thursday. The win pushed the Huskies to 10-2 in the West Suburban (silver) Conference and awarded the the team its seventh straight conference title. Four OPRF players cranked doubles in the victory over York. Waldron, Nightengale, Rigas, and Mia Zinni all had two baggers on Thursday.

The Huskies have a slew of other Sluggers in Erika Rosenwinkel, Ann Schraufnagel, and Kate Ziegler. Coupled with the speed of Stephanie Bernthal, the team seems to have all the peices in place for a State tournament birth.

Looming in the shadows could be that pesky Lockport, the team that battled back from the 6-0 deficit to swipe last year's State title away from the Huskies.

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