A little heat didn't stop the Oak Park-River Forest High School baseball team from getting in a little extra work during the 2013 summer season.
Head coach Chris Ledbetter's squad posted a sizzling 17-3 record this summer, falling to Nazareth 3-1 in the Fenwick Regional semifinals of the Phil Lawler Summer State Tournament. Ledbetter was pleased with his players' development and success during tough summer league competition.
"I feel really good coming out of the summer," Ledbetter said. "We went into the summer season with a couple of things in mind that we wanted to focus on. Mainly, we wanted to look at who is going to replace the players we lost to graduation, and I think we answered all of our questions."
Summer baseball provides Ledbetter and his staff the opportunity to decide how the lineup will shape up, and any possible changes, for next spring's regular season. One of the tweaks that will be implemented in 2014 is senior Keith Rogalla's transition from third base to first base when he's not pitching. Ryan Fish will see plenty of playing time at the hot corner.
"I feel like the change helps us as a team," Ledbetter said. "And individually for (Rogalla), he's probably better suited as a first baseman. Fish has solidified himself this summer as a kid that we know we can count on in the spring."
After coming off of a regular season loss to Maine South in a Class 4A sectional final, OPRF will continue to work diligently in the offseason to defend their West Suburban (Silver) Conference and make another deep postseason run. OPRF won the Class 4A state title in 2012.
"We'll be focused in the offseason and get our work in," Rogalla said. "Whether it's weight lifting or speed training, we'll be making sure that we do the little things. We know we have the talent, and we're in good position to make a run at state again."
While Ledbetter like his returning nucleus of talent, the Huskies' veteran skipper knows there's work to be done.
"We just have to get better," Ledbetter said. "We need to get better at identifying our areas that we aren't as polished in and spend the time to work on those things."
The Huskies will sport a solid pitching staff in 2014 as Rogalla and seniors RyanChancellor, Sam Cottingham-Beard, Jack Mueller, Ian Luttrell, Alex Rice, Chris Rumoro, James Kay, and Andrew Donlan all return. That collection of stellar arms will be a huge key to the Huskies' success.
"We probably have the best pitching staff that OPRF has had in the last couple of years," Rogalla said. "Our pitchers just like to attack, attack, and attack. If you give up free bases, the other teams will take advantage of that. We just need to keep attacking; it's worked for us in the past."
Rogalla's older brother, Jack, just capped off a solid junior campaign as a pitcher at Binghamton University. He finished 5-5, tying for second in the America East in games started (15) and sixth in ERA (3.01 ERA).
"I could never understand why more colleges didn't want to take a chance on Jack," Ledbetter said, "He was just touching his potential in high school, and now he just keeps getting better and better."
Ledbetter feels equally confident about his current OPRF pitching staff.
"I've got to be most confident about the pitching," said Ledbetter. "Pitching wins in high school baseball. I've got players that can make some noise offensively, and every day of the week we'll be putting out a quality pitcher. We have a lot of pitching returning, and typically that's a good recipe for success."