Mel Kolbusz is unemployed and homeless, but he’s eager to coach the OPRF softball team back to the IHSA Class AA Softball State tournament for the sixth straight year.

Things aren’t as bad as they seem for Kolbusz, now entering his 15th-year as head coach of the Huskies. The tenured coach recently retired from a 34-year stint teaching and coaching at Clemente High School. He and his wife sold the Oak Park home they lived in for 30 years and are waiting to move into a new townhouse in Melrose Park once construction is complete.

“I’m homeless and living out of a hotel on Roosevelt Road, so things are kind of crazy right now,” said Kolbusz, who when asked if he was considering retirin Huskies backed by Stillson’s plethora of pitches-including a 59-mph fastballg from coaching the OPRF softball team. “Oh no, it’s too much fun. I look old and it makes me feel young.”

Kolbusz may have an extra spring in his step this season as most of last year’s squad that won over 30 games and made it as far as the state quarterfinals returns. Leading the pack is pitching ace Seana Stillson, who as a sophomore last season tallied an outstanding record of 13-2 to go along with barely an ERA (0.29).

Kolbusz said despite suffering a hip flexor in the offseason, Stillson is in top form. The junior’s fastball reached 59 mph last year, and she boasts a dropball, curve and changeup in her repertoire. And the righthander has no problem with accuracy. In 120 innings last season, Stillson walked just four batters.

Rightfully so, Kolbusz said he isn’t too worried about pitching-not with backup Sara Hutchinson throwing in the 51-mph range. With All-state centerfielder Alex Morocco back, along with leftfielder Claire O’Connor and third baseman Mary Zinni, the defense is strong as well.

Kolbusz said timely hitting is the main focus this season. The Huskies batted just .240 as a team last year.

“Most of our five losses last year were because we didn’t hit real well,” said Kolbusz. “We want to change that this year, and I think it’s possible with the amount of young talent on the team.”

Two newcomers that have impressed Kolbusz and his staff in the batting cages are Megan White and Kim Grimes.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Kim found her way into the starting lineup,” said Kolbusz. “She’s a lefty with a good swing.”

White returns to the diamond after suffering a broken ankle in the early fall when she was hit by a car. Kolbusz said his assistant coaches are raving about her hitting ability.

Others expected to have important roles this season are seniors Maura Waldron (infielder), Lindsey MacWilliams (designated hitter), and Mattie Prodanovic (catcher).

Sophomores Lauren Gonzales and Maura Blesoff also return to the lineup this season.

Kolbusz said he’s aiming for back-to-back West Suburban (Silver) Conference titles. The Huskies went a perfect 12-0 last season, and Glenbard West looks to be the team’s main competition.

But conference titles aren’t exactly what the Huskies are known for. OPRF didn’t even win the WSC in 2003, the year they won the state championship. The Huskies have a difficult schedule that includes match-ups against such top teams as Lockport, Glenbrook North, Morton, and New Trier, who knocked OPRF out of the tournament in the quarterfinals last year after 10 innings. The Huskies will also return to Ohio in April for the Wendy’s Classic, where they’ll play at total of four games, three against defending state champs.

“We certainly have the athletic ability and smarts to return to the state tournament,” said Kolbusz. “We as coaches have our job cut out for us but the ability is there. There’s no question I’d like to return and do better than we did last year.”

Weather permitting, the Huskies will open the season at St. Francis on Saturday (10 a.m.) and host Addison Trail on Tuesday (4:30 p.m.). They’ll take on area-rival Trinity April 2nd at Triton College (4:30 p.m.).

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Brad Spencer

Brad Spencer has been covering sports in and around Oak Park for more than a decade, which means the young athletes he once covered in high school are now out of college and at home living with their parents...