With a deep lineup featuring prolific hitters like Taylor Arends, Sophie Mouros, Libby Foster and Emma Baldwin, The Oak Park and River Forest High School softball team essentially hit all season, that is until Monday's Class 4A Supersectional at Rosemont Stadium.
Glenbard North blanked the Huskies 4-0 behind a strong pitching performance from its ace Cece Dopart, who tossed a five-hitter with eight strikeouts, en route to qualifying for the state semifinals in Peoria this weekend. Leading 1-0, the Panthers scored three runs in the top of the seventh to put the game away. The Panthers' Sarah Petzold (2-for-4) came up with the key hit, a two-RBI double to left-center.
Baldwin, who performed well throughout the playoffs, kept the Huskies within striking distance by working 6 1/3 innings and giving up three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and two walks.
In the end, the Eckerd College-bound Dopart outdueled Baldwin whose moving on to DePauw University in a classic showdown of both teams' best.
"If I got down two strikes, I got a little bit nervous," Arends said about facing Dopart. "At that point, it's just about making contact and adjusting my swing up a little bit. You can't get down on yourself for anything that happened in the at-bat before. You just have to focus on right here and right now."
Senior left fielder Annelise Ryan went 2-for-2 and reached base four times (twice on errors), while Baldwin went 2-for-3 with a single and a double. Arends and senior second baseman Elaine Warner both finished 1-for-2.
In the third, Ryan reached base on a throwing error by Dopart to lead off the inning. Arends then drew a one-out walk and was moved over by Mouros who reached on a fielder's choice as Dopart unsuccessfully attempted to get Ryan out at third. Dopart wiggled out of her bases-loaded jam by inducing Foster to pop out in the infield and striking out sophomore designated player Emily Richardson. OPRF, which loaded the bases again in the sixth, left 12 on base for the game
After a subpar 16-16 record in 2013, the Huskies hit their stride this spring with a 27-10 mark, runner-up finish in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division and regional/sectional championships. Veteran coach Mel Kolbusz did a masterful job meshing experienced players with promising newcomers into a true team despite several injuries over the course of a long season.
Arends, who missed more than half of the season due to a high ankle sprain, finished hitting about .550.
"Last season, I was one of two underclassmen and it was intimidating," Arends said. "This season we all got along so well and were really close, and everybody felt included on the team.
"Our goal next year will definitely be to qualify for state. We have a lot of talented girls coming up and we keep getting closer together. I think we can do as well if not better next year. We'll be able to fill the holes left by our seniors, but we will definitely miss them."
OPRF returns a plethora of talented players next year, including Arends, Mouros, Richardson, Samantha Linde, Nina Steele, Chardonnay Harris and Sydney Babbington. Highly touted incoming freshman Maeve Nelson, who reportedly is already drawing college recruiting interest, is expected to make an impact.
On the flip side, the Huskies graduate several seniors, notably Baldwin.
"I told my teammates to just keep pushing," she said. "I know they can do it and I'll be back here watching."