It began soggy, with many players from area ballclubs anxiously waiting out the cold rain huddled in their respective damp and drafty dugouts. The start of the high school spring sports season frustrated many area coaches, players and fans alike. The OPRF and Fenwick baseball teams were smart enough to have prearranged a brief trip to the sunny state of Florida — not together of course — to offset what has now become a frequent occurrence of inclement weather in April and May in the Midwest.
While it was business as usual for indoor sports like volleyball and water polo, the area’s ball, soccer and track teams trudged along with a game or meet here, a rainout there, and continuous threatening skies everywhere. When things finally dried out, for the most part anyway, there were plenty of sports highlights.
Here’s a look at what we considered to be the Top 10 of the season. Feel free to post a comment, to add others or argue or support your case.
10) OPRF softball
While highlights were hard to come by during the worst season in over 20 years for the OPRF softball program, the Huskies took out their frustration on cross-town rival Fenwick in the Class 4A playoffs.
The team avenged a loss earlier in the season by shutting out the Friars 2-0 in the semifinal of the Oak Park Regional. The victory marked the team’s fourth-straight, and no doubt helped ease the sting of an 11-22 season.
9) OPRF soccer
The Huskies gave a grand send-off to head coach Paul Wright by battling St. Ignatius to a 1-0 victory in triple overtime to capture the Class 3A Regional Championship. Shelby Cozette scored the game winner off an assist by Sara McCall.
The Huskies closed out Wright’s final season at the helm with a 12-6-2 overall record.
8) Fenwick baseball
Fenwick got off to a rough start by losing five games in a row in April, but the Friars managed to turn things around with help from pitchers Tyler Sewall and John McGann. Sewall ended up leading the rotation in strikeouts with 47 before the start of the playoffs. McGann went 4-2, and the Friars ended up taking first place in the White Division of the Chicago Catholic League.
Fenwick’s season ended after Sewall allowed just one run on five hits in a hard-fought 1-0 loss to St. Rita in the Class 4A playoffs.
7) OPRF boys track and field’s Malachy Schrobilgen
Malachy Schrobilgen put a scare into York’s Jack Driggs near the end of the 3200-meter run at the Class 3A State Meet. After falling behind, the junior ran toe-to-toe with Driggs and finished second just a whisker behind the senior. Schrobilgen, who finished in 9:06.8 while Driggs posted a 9:06.25, also kept at bay Maine South senior David Eckart (9:06.9), paving the way for a run at the state title next season.
6) Trinity softball
The Trinity softball team didn’t miss a step when going from Class 3A to 4A this season. The Blazers, who finished runner-up in the Class 3A state tournament the year prior, proved the move was warranted by making it as far as a Class 4A sectional title game.
Led by pitcher Chase Machain, a left-handed sophomore who went 21-3 on the season with an ERA of 1.98, the Blazers racked up 29 victories. In mid-May, they won the program’s first Girls Catholic Athletic Conference (Red Division) Championship with an 8-3 victory over Mother McAuley. Abby Ramirez went 4-for-4 against the Mighty Macs, who ended up knocking Trinity out of the playoffs.
5) OPRF baseball
The Huskies jumped out to an early lead against De La Salle in the Oak Park Regional Championship, but when the bats went silent in the middle innings PJ Brennan’s pitching and the defense picked up the slack for a 7-1 victory.
Alec Jeffries hit a two-run triple in the first and Tim Sutton rocketed a solo home run in the second to give OPRF a 4-0 lead. Brennan baffled the Meteors with his changeup and two-seam fastball. He allowed just one run on four hits, while striking out six and walking one. When De La Salle did manage to get the bat on the ball, the Huskies made some impressive plays, including a diving stop by Eric Cybulski.
4) OPRF baseball’s Zack Weigel
OPRF’s centerfielder apparently isn’t one to brag. No one seemed to be aware of Zack Weigel’s hitting streak until it reached double digits. The junior didn’t see what the big deal was. He topped out hitting successfully in 29-straight games, probably a new school record (it’s undocumented).
Shrugging off the feat Weigel said, “My goal is helping the team out any way I can.”
3) OPRF tennis
For the second year in a row the OPRF tennis team finished in the top three at the IHSA State Meet.
Devin Jones and Luke Trinka led the charge with a fourth place finish in doubles. The duo went 5-2 in the tournament, while fellow doubles pair, Eric Bruynseels and Tim McAdam, finished sixth overall.
In singles action, Jake Wilson, who finished fifth at state last year playing doubles, went 5-2.
2) Fenwick boys and girls water polo
The dynasty continued this season as the Fenwick boys water polo team won its eighth consecutive state title and the girls team won its sixth since 2004.
The boys downed St. Ignatius 16-9 behind Matt Farmer’s four goals. Led by Annie Collins’ four goals, the girls upended Stevenson 9-6.
1) The No. 1 best sports moment of the spring season was
when Carl Heinz became OPRF’s first state champion in boys track and field since 1987 when he soared to a high-jump height of 6-feet, 10-inches — doing it, of course, in the famous Fosbury flop-style — at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston in May.
The junior’s actual winning leap was 6-8, but Heinz concluded his state performance by clearing 6-10. He even took a few shots at 7-feet to the pleasure of the crowd.
“I knew what I had to do going in, and the weather played nicely to my favor,” said Heinz, who became OPRF’s first state champ for the boys in the sport since Jim Westphal took first in the 3200-meter run in 1987. He also became OPRF’s first high jump state champion since John Steele won the event in 1980.
Earlier in the season, Heinz set a new school record by clearing 7-feet at the Hinsdale Central Relays.