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A repeat showdown against Lyons Township, the team it squeaked past to win the IHSA Class 4A State Championship back in early June, wasn't meant to be for the OPRF baseball team this summer.
The Huskies were dispatched in the third round of the summer league playoffs after a grueling 4-3 loss to Maine South in 15 innings. Lyons, on the other hand, went on to secure the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association's Phil Lawler Summer Classic title. A lot can happen in just a few weeks.
It was June 9 when OPRF's Mike Brennan drove in the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning to give the Huskies a 4-3 win and the Class 4A State title at Silver Cross Field in Joliet. But the summer is for development and that's just what head coach Chris Ledbetter was focused on this off-season.
"We still haven't really come down from that state championship victory," he said last week. "It may take until next spring for that to happen, but the coaches and I liked what we saw out of younger guys this summer. It's kind of hit-or-miss with players during these months with travel club tournaments and football camp going on and what not, but we had a good consistent group and saw a lot of progress. I'm pleased with the summer play overall."
Ledbetter added that such players as Alex Rice, Henry Pine, Jacob Harris, Austin Cone, Wiley Lauerman and Charlie Fencik all had favorable summers, as did his group of catchers, including John Ernst, Dain Mrozek and up-and-comer Patrick Rumoro, who will be a sophomore in the fall.
Sam Cottingham-Beard and soon-to-be junior Chris Rumoro, a cousin of Patrick, also had encouraging performances on the mound, according to Ledbetter.
"At times we were without the services of some of our power hitters like Nick Kowalczuk, but we did well," said Ledbetter. Kowalczuk, who will be a senior in the fall, was invited to play in multiple traveling tournaments throughout the summer.
The Huskies closed out the off-season with a 17-5 record. Lyons Township, likely to again be OPRF's primary competition for the top spot in the West Suburban (Silver) Conference next spring, went 33-4-1 over the summer, finishing with a 7-3 win over Joliet Catholic in the title game. Max Larsen led LT by knocking in three runs and holding the Hilltoppers to just five hits in six innings on the mound.
Regarding summer league state titles, the Lions move into second place all-time, trailing only OPRF, which has claimed six summer titles during the 37-year history of the tournament.
The Lions and Huskies renew their rivalry in late April of 2013 during a regular season meeting.
Marty Farmer contributed to this report.