OPRF   10
Morton 1

Going into Saturday’s Morton Regional Championship, OPRF head baseball coach Chris Ledbetter had reservations about how well his team would perform against one of the state’s top pitchers. The Huskies had only scattered three hits in a 7-3 victory over Argo in the semifinals a few days prior and were now facing Morton’s Ryan Crowley, a lefty who fanned more than 112 batters throughout the season.

Ledbetter’s players quickly quashed their head coach’s worries by taking an early lead on their way to a 10-1 win.

“We had prepped for this game all week, which probably caused us to be a little tentative at the plate against Argo,” said Ledbetter. “But they executed everything flawlessly by putting all individual success on the backburner and working as a team.”

Mike Locasto, who moved from the ninth spot in the batting order to No. 2, got the Huskies (24-11) on the board with an RBI single in the first inning. Locasto ended up making it 2-0 by steeling home in the same inning.

“It was huge to get that quick lead, especially against a team like Morton and a pitcher like Crowley,” said Ledbetter. Prior to Saturday, Crowley had only lost two games all season, one in which he struck out 14 batters.

The Mustangs scored in their half of the first to make it 2-1, but OPRF kept the pressure on. In the fourth inning, Andrew Godbold doubled off the centerfield fence to drive in two runs for the Huskies.

OPRF plated five more runs in the fifth. Sam Picchiotti, Locasto and Jo Jo Maldonado all singled in runs in the inning.

Luke McLeese upped his pitching record to 7-1 on the season by yielding just the one run off five hits in six innings of work. He fanned four and walked two.

“I have to take the blame for that one run Luke gave up,” confessed Ledbetter. “I had changed the infield and the play would have been made if I hadn’t.”

It was Crowley who drove in Morton’s only run.

In the win over Argo, OPRF scattered just the three hits but Evan Vandrasek (6-1) only yielded three hits to the Argonauts. Maldonado belted a homer that bounced off the foul pole in the bottom of the first to tie the score at 1-1.

Down 2-1 in the fourth inning, the Huskies received some help from their opponent. OPRF scored four runs on no hits in the inning. A throwing error and two hit-batsmen on the part of Argo helped the cause.

The Huskies will have to come with the same intensity they did against Morton to upend Mt. Carmel in Thursday’s semifinal of the Mt. Carmel Sectional. The Huskies are likely to face pitcher Kevin Johnson, who has signed to play at U of I next season.

“We’re going to see pitching that is very good the rest of the way; however, our team should go in with a lot of confidence,” said Ledbetter. “We should be ready for anything.”

The Mt. Carmel Sectional Championship is scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.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...