OPRF baseball gearing up for playoffs

Armed with a strong pitching staff and lineup, Huskies eager for postseason

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Jack McMullen

Contributing Reporter

This season has been nothing short of a roller coaster for the Oak Park and River Forest baseball team.

Friday night was just another corkscrew in the ride.

Although the Huskies' 3-2 loss against visiting New Trier could have served as a halt to the team's recent momentum, OPRF coach Joe Parenti begs to differ.

"I think we're fine," the first-year head coach said. "I think guys are a little upset today, but all in all I think we're in a good place moving forward. We're 11-3 in our last 14 games, so we're feeling good about it."

Promising sophomore Nathan Diamond took the hill against the Trevians. After getting out of a bases loaded jam in the first inning, the left-hander performed well. He threw five scoreless innings and allowed just two hits with five strikeouts.

"I threw a lot of balls, but I got it done in the end," Diamond said. "I think our team is in a real good place. Besides that one big play in the sixth, we played a really good game today against a good team."

The only cause for concern for Diamond is reducing his walks. He issued six free passes against New Trier. Diamond and OPRF pitching coach Tim Dennehy will discuss solutions.

The decisive momentum shift of the game occurred in the Trevians' half of the sixth. With OPRF leading 2-0, junior Nick Morse relieved Diamond. After New Trier started its rally with two straight hits to lead off the inning, an errant throw by an OPRF defender on a ground ball allowed the Trevians to tie the score at 2-2.

New Trier tacked on the winning run in the seventh to secure a 3-2 victory.

The Huskies jumped out to a 2-0 lead, courtesy of a run scored in the third by junior shortstop Brian May and freshman outfielder Jai Hseih-Bailey's run scored in the fifth

"It was a well-played game on both sides—a good little sectional preview," Parenti said.

New Trier upset OPRF 12-6 last year in an IHSA sectional final.

A post-season rematch this spring is possible.

OPRF has wrapped up most of its West Suburban Conference Silver Division games. After losing two games apiece to Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township during a sluggish 2-7 start to the regular season, the Huskies caught fire. OPRF swept York, Downers Grove North and Glenbard West. A three-game set remains against Proviso West where the Huskies will be heavily favored.

With five losses overall in league play, The Huskies should finish second in the Silver.

The Huskies' dominance during the middle of the season has been sustained by solid starting pitching over the last several weeks. Diamond, junior Brendan Barrette and senior Roy Iversen have all thrown effectively. Hard-throwing senior right-hander Evan Nieslawski is currently on a 20-inning scoreless streak.

Much of the late offensive (and defensive) success in conference came after the call up of Hseih-Bailey, who has been starting in center field during the Huskies' auspicious 14-game run.

"It took me a couple games to adjust to varsity, but I feel like I'm adjusted now and I'm having fun," Hseih-Bailey said.

Along with a single in the bottom of the fifth, the freshman standout also made a spectacular diving play in shallow center against New Trier.

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