By Marty Farmer
The Oak Park and River Forest High School baseball team swept Downers Grove North 9-1 and 8-2 on Saturday, and suddenly, the West Suburban (Silver) Conference race just got a whole lot more interesting.
Trailing the Trojans by three games in conference entering the critical twin bill, the Huskies (16-7, 10-4 West Suburban Silver) displayed plenty of strong pitching and timely hitting to secure the impressive sweep.
"We put ourselves in a bit of a bind when we lost two games apiece to Hinsdale Central and LT," OPRF coach Chris Ledbetter said. "We went from being 7-0 [in conference] to 7-4 in a matter of 72 hours.
"Although we put ourselves in a difficult position, I told the kids [now] we have a chance to play a small playoff series against Downers [North]. Obviously, we're going to take on this series one game at a time, but we want to win all three games. It's important to me because it allows us to play meaningful baseball longer into the season."
In the nightcap, left-hander Ian Luttrell dazzled on the mound as OPRF broke open a 2-1 game with four runs in the fourth to build a 6-1 advantage. Alex Rice hit a sac fly, Pat Rumoro (two hits, four RBI) laced a key two-RBI single to right, and Charlie Fencik finished the scoring flurry with a run-scoring single.
Fencik added a sac fly in the sixth, scoring Tom Chancellor on a close play at the plate. Rumoro also scored in the frame to make the final tally 8-2.
Luttrell threw four innings for the win before Rice finished in relief.
"I just wanted to throw strikes, force contact on the ground and let our defense work," Luttrell said. "All of our pitchers threw great. Alex helped me out. We're giving a good collective effort as a team."
In the opener, Henry Cappel (4-1) gave up four hits and struck out seven in a complete-game gem.
"My stuff was feeling good," Cappel said. "I located the splitter and curve. My teammates really came through for me with a ton of offensive support. Everybody has improved so from the start of the season till now."
Rice provided the big hit with a bases-clearing double in the fourth to highlight a five-run frame. University of Michigan-bound Nick Kowalczuk had two RBI and scored three times, while Dain Mrozek drove in two runs.
"We had a good day offensively and a lot of guys contributed in both wins," Ledbetter said. "Our pitchers are coming along well. Earlier in the season, I saw our pitchers get wins sometimes; but I didn't see much out of their second pitch. [Today], our pitchers were throwing at least two or three quality pitches."
The Huskies kicked off their productive weekend with a 10-6 victory over host Loyola in a nonconference game Friday. Despite playing in 40-degree temperatures and waiting out a 45-minute rain delay, OPRF started fast with nine hits in the first inning en route to the win.