The Oak Park and River Forest High School baseball team liked its chances against New Trier entering Saturday’s Class 4A Loyola Academy Sectional final. The Huskies routed the Trevians 10-0 during the regular season and had senior ace Hank Christie on the mound for the rematch.
Unfortunately, the Huskies’ script for success took a severe turn as New Trier gained a measure of revenge with a 12-6 victory
The Trevians scored 12 runs over the first three innings to build an insurmountable lead.
“(New Trier) really came out ready to play,” OPRF coach Chris Ledbetter said. “(Hank Christie) hasn’t given up many runs all year, but they came up with a great approach and they took it to us a little bit.
“Our guys were resilient. Later in the game, I really believed we could win because I know how hard our kids fight.”
To their credit, the Huskies battled back via their power game. Senior first baseman Connor Nelson hit a two-run homer in the third inning and senior right fielder Evan Bell added a three-run blast in the fourth to pull OPRF within 12-5.
“That’s the best I’ve felt in a long time (at the plate) today,” Bell said. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle for me this year, finding mechanics and finding approaches. It means so much to me that I came through for my team today.
“We beat (New Trier) 10-0 earlier this season, but they came out and played the best game they could have possibly played. We fought like hell today. I just love this team and the coaches.”
With one out in the fifth, OPRF senior shortstop Andrew Hennings and designated hitter Dom Gerace hit consecutive singles and Bell reached base via an error to load the bases. With two outs, senior second baseman Jeremy Gaines got hit by a pitch to score the Huskies’ final run of the game and season.
The Memphis-bound Bell finished 2-for-4 with a home and three RBIs, while Nelson went 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBIs. Gerace was 2-for-4.
“I’m so proud of how we fought all year,” Bell said. “Whenever things got bad, we never yelled at each other or got on each other. We love each other so much and that’s why this one hurts.”
Although the Huskies didn’t surpass their 2015 campaign (which included a trip to the Class 4A state semifinals), they still finished 28-8 this spring.
The program, annually one of the best in the state, is loaded with promising young players for next spring.
“These guys competed hard the last two years,” Ledbetter said. “In one whole season, this was the only bad game we’ve had all year. We have a very dedicated group of seniors. I’ve really enjoyed being around this group of kids.”