Class 4A Baseball State Championship

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Prairie Ridge 3

Second place isn’t pretty, but the OPRF baseball team made finishing runner-up look pretty impressive at the Class 4A State Championship on Saturday night.

After a 45-minute delay due to inclement weather in the area, the Huskies battled Prairie Ridge for every bit of seven innings at Silver Cross Field in Joliet, but fell short with a 3-2 loss to the team ranked No. 1 in many preseason polls.

The game came down to a game-tying run in the sixth off a triple by T. J. Swank followed by a sacrifice fly by Nolan Jacoby for Prairie Ridge (32-8), a team boasting five Division I prospects.

Jo Jo Maldanado, who had numerous diving catches and stops at shortstop all evening, doubled to right center in the first inning to score Sam Picchiotti and put the Huskies up 1-0. The Wolves didn’t answer until the fourth when the Coastal Carolina-bound Swank drove in Nick Martini with a fielder’s choice groundout to tie the game.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Huskies took the lead by battling Swank (11-1) on the mound. Andy Brashler reached on an error and Mike Locasto singled to set up runners at first and second. Max Edwards took the right-handed sidearm thrower to task with an intense battle at the plate that tallied five foul balls on a full count. Edwards walked to load the bases. Swank then allowed the go-ahead run by walking Picchiotti, giving OPRF a 2-1 advantage.

The Huskies (29-10-1) held the lead until the sixth when Swank belted the run-producing triple to the warning track in center field off Kyle Glancy. Jacoby then drove in pinch-runner Kevin Kaczmarski with a sacrifice fly to center for what ended up being the game winner.

OPRF threatened in the bottom of the seventh when Picchiotti drew a walk off Martini and eventually stole second. But Martini forced the meat of the Huskies’ lineup-Drew Golz and Maldanado-to fly out before fanning Joe Kelty for the final out.

“It’s tough. Our guys battled to the end,” said OPRF head coach Chris Ledbetter, who, in his first year at the helm, coached the Huskies to a second place finish at state in 2001. “They gave it their all, and that’s all that you can ask of them. Glancy pitched a heck of a game for us. It was a valiant effort on his part.”

The Northern Illinois-bound Glancy (9-4) yielded just two hits through five innings. For the game, the senior right-hander gave up three runs off four hits in 5 2/3 innings of work.

“At the onset of the season, we had some issues that needed to be resolved and the team got together after a loss to Downers Grove North and put it all out there,” said Ledbetter. “Since that point everything started clicking.”

The Huskies won the West Suburban (Silver) Conference title outright this season and posted two victories over cross-town rival Fenwick, including an 8-4 win in the sectional championship. They downed highly-ranked Sandburg 7-3 to win the supersectional and clobbered Wheaton North 11-1 in six innings in the Class 4A State Semifinals at Silver Cross Field on Friday night.

Maldanado led the Huskies in the win over Wheaton North, going 4-for-4 with two homers and six RBIs. Golz (8-1), who will play for the Air Force Academy next season, allowed the one run off just three hits in five innings on the mound.

OPRF loses most of its starting lineup to graduation with the exception of Locasto, Picchiotti and Maldanado.

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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...