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By Brad Spencer
The chance to face highly-ranked and recently embattled St. Laurence for the Class 4A Oak Park Regional championship fell to the wayside for the Fenwick baseball team on Thursday as the Friars fell 3-0 to Whitney Young in the semifinal at Dominican Priory.
Fenwick had trouble keying-in on the pitches of Daniel Villodas, who yielded just five hits in 6 2/3 innings of work on a day when the wind was blowing out.
Jack Forde was just as effective on the mound for the Friars, though his stuff didn't kick in until after the first inning when the Dolphins (21-13) had already put their runs on the board. Forde, who went into the game with a record of 4-4 and an ERA of 3.48, allowed two earned runs on seven hits, while fanning five and walking one.
It was Villodas who drove in what would account for the winning run. The junior hit an RBI-single in the opening frame. Two batters later, Justin Missner drove in an insurance run. Young scored its third run on an error.
Fenwick stranded runners at the corners in the seventh inning.
The Friars and the Dolphins were evenly matched. Both teams had earned 20 wins on the season going into Thursday's game.
The possibility of a rematch against St. Laurence, a team that downed the Friars 14-0 back in April and was involved in a brawl with St. Rita during a recent game that led to the suspension of several coaches and players, was not to be for Fenwick. Still, the Friars close out the season with commendable achievements.
Head coach Dave Hogan, a member of the Illinois High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame, moved up to seventh on the all-time career wins list. Hogan, who has been coaching baseball at Fenwick for 33 years, currently has 696 career victories.
The Friars lose 15 players to graduation, including Forde, Ryan Fitzgerald, Joe Patzelt, Jim Sweeney and Drew Schroeder. Fitzgerald led the team in batting average (.455), while Patzelt drove in 26 RBIs and went 5-1 on the mound.
Fenwick is expected to return Paul O'Toole and Kyle Pullia. O'Toole racked up over 100 at bats as a junior this season and led the team in runs batted in with 28. Pullia struck out a team leading 59 batters in just over 50 innings on the mound.