By Marty Farmer
Six days. That's all the time the Oak Park Youth Baseball/Softball House League All-Stars in the girls'14U age division essentially had together in terms of practice time before embarking on their impressive summer run.
"It's been a wildly successful summer and we're very happy with the way things played out," said Falcons assistant coach Bill Sullivan, who is also the president of OPYBS. "I think at our first tournament in Algonquin there was a sense from the get go we had an unusually talented team, even though we had only been together six days before the first game."
The 14U Falcons finished the summer with a 17-4 record, highlighted by winning titles at their hometown 4th Annual Falcon Fest and the Bloomingdale Summer Blast tournament. The team also qualified for the USSSA World Series in their opening tournament by taking second place in Algonquin and performed well at the highly regarded Glenview tournament.
Off all their accomplishments, the Falcons seemed most proud of winning their hometown tourney, the Falcon Fest.
"I'm really happy with how we started," catcher Katie O'Shea said during Falcon Fest. "It's always nice to start out with a big win."
Mia Williams agreed.
"I think winning Falcon Fest was probably the best memory I'll have from this summer," she said. "The teams I've been on in the past got close, but this was the first year I was part of a championship team so that was a great feeling."
Like Falcon Fest, The Falcons dominated the field at the Bloomingdale tournament allowing only five funs in four games culminated with a convincing 15-1 victory over the Addison Jr. Blazers in the championship game. Falcons first baseman Samantha Michaud crushed a three-run, 230-foot homer against the overmatched Jr. Blazers to close the tourney in memorable fashion.
"Samantha had been scuffling a little bit midseason with her batting," Sullivan said. She made some adjustments and you could tell she was about to break out of it because she was hitting the ball sharply. In the championship game, she launched a home run so fast and far I didn't even see it at first. The Addison coach came over to our dugout [later] and congratulated Samantha, which I thought I was a tremendous act of sportsmanship."
En route to the title, the Falcons cruised past the Glen Ellyn Phillies, Mount Prospect Fire and Roselle Rockers.
Over the weekend, the Falcons closed out their summer campaign by competing at a tournament in Carol Stream. After outscoring three opponents by a combined score of 39-6 to finish pool play 3-0, the Falcons were stunned by the Mount Prospect 11-1 in the opening round of the playoffs.
"The Carol Stream tournament was played on turf which was a bit of an adjustment for us," Sullivan said. "We played well in pool play, but just played a bit flat against the Mount Prospect Fire, a team we beat the previous week in Bloomingdale. Full credit to Mount Prospect; they played great and deserved to win."
The Falcons' depth quickly became evident as virtually every player on the roster contributed to the team's winning ways. Emma Vejcik set the table as a premier leadoff hitter with tremendous speed, while Ella Niermann and Mia Williams led a fleet outfield.
"We have a very fast outfield," Williams said. "Everybody can catch the ball and has a good arm if we need to throw the ball to home or any base. I think the skills of all the girls all meshed well. Everybody got along like a family."
Megan Sullivan (Bill's daughter) and Michaud served as top pitchers for the Falcons. Sullivan also flourished as a pitcher on the Oak Park and River Forest High School freshmen team during the spring.
"We had a really fun summer and all the girls on the team became very close," Megan Sullivan said. "Along with social aspect, the softball was fun, too, whether it was practices or games. It was just a great all-around experience."
Members of the 14U Falcons included: Mireya Garcia, Emma Vejcik, Gigi Andreoli, Mariah Scott, Katie O'Shea, Megan Krikau, Samantha Michaud, Mia Williams, Megan Sullivan, Paige Ross, Jaelynn Brown and Ella Niermann. Head coach Johnny Scott and assistants Bill Sullivan, Sean O'Shea and Craig Ross coached the team.
"I have really enjoyed coaching this team and being part of a great coaching staff," Scott said. "We managed to put together a team that not only played good softball but represented Oak Park well."