A slew of hits in the top of the seventh inning helped propel the OPRF baseball team past highly-ranked Sandburg 7-3 and win the Crestwood Supersectional Championship at Standard Bank Stadium on Monday night. The victory advanced the Huskies (29-8) into the Class 4A State Tournament to be held at Silver Cross Field in Joliet beginning Friday.
Drew Golz’s clutch RBI-single in the top of the seventh broke a 2-2 tie. Sam Picchiotti stole his 19th base on the season to set up Golz’s run-producing single. Kyle Glancy, Mike Locasto, and Mark Bernthal all had RBIs in the final inning for the Huskies.
The Eagles (31-5) added a run on an error in the bottom of the inning, but Glancy thwarted any chance of a late-game comeback by striking out the final batter.
“Sandburg has had a tremendous year; 30 wins and a top three ranking all year,” OPRF head coach Chris Ledbetter said. “But our whole philosophy is we don’t take a back seat to anybody. These kids have made a name for themselves by showing a lot of character.”
Joe Kelty drove in two runs on the evening for OPRF, one on a double in the third and another on a single in the fifth. Golz finished 3-for-3 for the Huskies, who downed cross-town rival Fenwick 8-4 on Saturday to win the Mt. Carmel Sectional Championship.
OPRF will take on Wheaton North (24-13) on Friday in the Class 4A State Semifinals (4 p.m.). A victory would put them in the state championship against either Neuqua Valley (32-6) or Prairie Ridge (30-8) on the following day (7 p.m.).
The Huskies were last in the state tournament in 2004-05, losing in the first round. They finished runner-up in 2001.
Rivals battle for sectional title
OPRF shortstop Jo Jo Maldanado’s three-run blast on Saturday more than likely resonated from Haggerty Field in Chicago all the way back to Oak Park.
Tied at 4-4 with rival Fenwick, Maldanado cranked a Cam Verbeke-fastball 420-feet over the left field wall to propel the Huskies to a 7-4 advantage in the top of the fourth inning. The hit fueled an 8-4 victory over OPRF’s cross-town rival.
“I was so pumped especially after we tied the game,” Maldanado said. “He gave me a fastball and I just hit it. The adrenaline was pumping. It was amazing. That’s the best thing I have ever done [at Oak Park].”
While Maldanado’s heroics will always be remembered in OPRF-Fenwick baseball history, the shortstop wasn’t the only player to help earn the win.
Glancy (2-for-4) started the Huskies’ rally with a two-run homer in the bottom of the third to cut the deficit to 4-2. Golz squared the game at 4-all when the Air Force Academy-bound pitcher stroked an RBI single that scored Picchiotti and Bryan Bakker. Picchiotti (RBI, run, 2 walks) closed out the scoring on a single that brought home Bernthal to make it an 8-4 score in the fifth. Kelty also went 3-for-4 for the Huskies.
Golz (7-1) picked up the victory for OPRF, supported by an outstanding effort from reliever Scott Rasley, who tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
Fenwick (22-10), fresh off an impressive 7-6 sectional semifinal victory over Mt. Carmel last week, drew first blood against the Huskies.
With Mike Stephany and Reid Rooney aboard via a walk and double, respectively, catcher Mike Falsetti (2-for-2) hit a bloop single to right that scored Stephany. The Friars then executed a double steal that scored Rooney to take a 2-0 lead. Fenwick struck again in the second when Stephen Puisziz started the frame with a single and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Joe Ketcik. Two hitters later, Rooney hit a gapper that scored Puisziz.
Ultimately, the Friars’ early offense couldn’t hold off OPRF.
“I felt bad for Cam,” Fenwick coach Dave Hogan said. “He only had two bad pitches and boy did they capitalize on them with those two [home run] shots. We knew Oak Park was going to score runs, but we left too many guys on base especially in the last three innings.”
In the fifth, Fenwick loaded the bases with one out, but Rasley fanned Puisziz and Ketcik flied out to right to end the inning. The Friars made one final push in the seventh as Tobin, Puisziz and Ketcik all walked to load the bases yet again. However, Rasley battled back by getting Brian Moore to hit into a game-ending double play.
“I thought we had Oak Park,” Stephany said. “They got a couple of key hits which put them back in the game. I’ll never forget this game. I live in River Forest, and I know all these guys from Oak Park.”