Late inning rallies worked for and against OPRF at the St. Rita Sectional of the Class 4A baseball playoffs. Trailing the Huskies 3-2 in the sixth, top-seeded St. Rita stormed back with five runs to prevail 7-3 in the sectional championship game on Saturday.

On the flipside, OPRF authored an incredible rally of its own in the sectional semifinals, scoring nine runs in the sixth inning en route to a 12-9 victory over Mount Carmel.

Against St. Rita, Jack Picchiotti launched a solo home run in the third to put the Huskies up 1-0. After the Mustangs regained the lead at 2-1, OPRF (26-11-1) responded with a pair of runs in the fifth on Stefano Belmonte’s throwing error, which enabled two Huskies to cross home plate for a 3-2 lead.

Neal Rothschild and Jack Rogalla kept the game close with sparkling defensive plays for the Huskies. Rothschild’s defensive gem was particularly timely as the shortstop dove to catch a blooper past third base with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning for St. Rita.

Home runs by Austin Bilotto (solo) and Anthony Andres (two-run shot) coupled with an RBI single from Joe Filomeno and a sacrifice fly from Belmonte accounted for the Mustangs’ sixth inning explosion. Any OPRF hopes for a final comeback where shut down by St. Rita pitcher Mark Payton. The Arizona State-bound Payton struck out six in three innings of scoreless relief for the Mustangs (30-9).

In the sectional semifinals last week, OPRF pulled off its amazing 12-9 victory over Mount Carmel. Scoreless after three innings, OPRF third baseman Alec Jeffries (3-for-4, 3 RBIs) started off the fourth with a home run. Andrew Godbold (3-for-3) doubled and Joe Gerace drove him in with an RBI single. Rothschild then cracked a single, scoring Gerace to give OPRF a 3-0 advantage.

The Caravan plated seven runs in the fourth to retake the lead at 7-3 before the Huskies caught fire in the sixth. John Frueh opened the Huskies’ memorable frame with a solo home run and OPRF never looked back, scoring eight more runs on 13 plate appearances. Joe Gerace, put in the game for his defensive ability, capped off the inning with a grand slam and finished 2-for-4 with five RBIs and three runs.

Jack Rogalla (7-4) picked up the win by working six innings and striking out seven.

Looking ahead to next season, the Huskies will try to win back the West Suburban (Silver) Conference championship. After winning conference for three consecutive seasons, OPRF finished second this spring behind Lyons Township. Both teams should vie for the 2011 championship along with Hinsdale Central, York and Downers Grove North.

While the Huskies lose several key players like Frueh (signed with Illinois Wesleyan), Rogalla (Binghamton), Godbold, Rothschild, Gerace, Kyle French and Armond Gordon to graduation, head coach Chris Ledbetter will enter his 11th year as the Huskies skipper with plenty of returning talent. Division I prospect Will Polley, slugging catcher Jack Picchiotti, Tim Sutton and Jeffries among others are expected to return for OPRF next season.

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...