Dominant pitching and nearly flawless defense sparked the Oak Park and River Forest High School baseball team to a pair of impressive season-opening wins over Evanston and Glenbrook South last week.
Against the Wildkits and Titans, collectively, OPRF pitchers scattered five hits while striking out 21 and walking just two hitters in 47 at bats by the opposition. Defensively, the air-tight Huskies committed only one error.
“I am very pleased with the start of the season,” OPRF head coach Chris Ledbetter said. “Our pitching staff really set the tone and we’re playing very good defense. We need to improve our situational hitting and that will be our focus this week as we prepare to start our conference schedule.”
Last Wednesday, the Huskies opened their season with a solid road win beating highly-regarded Glenbrook South 6-0. OPRF hurlers carried the day as starter Joe McKune allowed three hits and struck out five in an efficient five innings of work. At one point, the locked-in McKune retired eight straight hitters. Hard-throwing left-hander Max Guzzetta pitched a scoreless sixth inning and Mike Brennan closed the door by striking out the side in the final frame. Glenbrook South (1-1) mustered only three hits and reached second base just once against the stingy Huskies.
OPRF scored three runs on four hits in the fourth inning to seize a 3-0 advantage. Dain Mrozek and Jack Belcaster cracked RBI singles and Zach Weigel (2-for-3, RBI, run scored) drove in another run with a double.
The Huskies broke the game wide open with three runs in the seventh inning. Brennan had an RBI single and Mike Adams hit a sacrifice fly. Matt McCormack also drove in a run for the Huskies.
OPRF notched a 1-0 victory against Evanston on Saturday. Weigel, a Seton Hall signee, starred for the Huskies with a masterful two-hit, eight-strikeout effort in four innings on the mound while finishing 3-for-4 at the plate.
Colin O’Brien provided all the scoring OPRF would need when he cracked an RBI double in the third inning. Guzzetta picked up where Weigel left off by throwing three scoreless innings of relief, giving up one hit, fanning five and issuing no walks to seal the Huskies’ victory.
Led by Weigel, McKune and Guzzetta, pitching should be a strength for the Huskies all season. Nick Kowalczuk, Sam Munno, Henry Cappel, Jack Badger, O’Brien and Brennan round out a deep, versatile pitching corps. The return of Purdue-bound catcher Jack Picchiotti later this season will give the Huskies serious punch at and behind the plate as well. Like his fellow Division I signee Weigel, Picchiotti batted above .500 last season.
The Huskies (2-0) continue their early-season slate of road games this week with “spring break” contests at Prairie Ridge on Monday (11 a.m.) and at Willowbrook on Wednesday (11 a.m.). The Huskies jump into West Suburban (Silver) Conference action in Glen Ellyn on Saturday (10 a.m.) with a twin-bill against Glenbard West. The Huskies’ home opener is Tuesday, April 3 at 4:30 p.m. against Glenbard West.
OPRF, which finished 30-11 and a sectional finalist last season, likely will contend along with defending state champion/conference champion Lyons Township (37-4 last season) and several other talented clubs for the conference title this spring.
OPRF and LT, typically the top two teams in the league, square off at OPRF on Saturday, April 28 (10 a.m.) in a doubleheader and then close the series with a game at LT on Tuesday, May 1 (4:30 p.m.).