Baseball games between Lyons Township and Oak Park and River Forest High Schools are usually fiercely competitive and often come down to the wire.
And while that might have been the case on May 1 as OPRF held off a late LTHS charge to secure a 12-11 victory to complete a suspended game from April 29, the regularly scheduled game that followed was drastically different, with the Huskies breaking open a pitchers’ duel with a nine-run outburst over two innings to rout the Lions 10-0.
“Give Lyons credit; they came out with a little more energy than we did,” said OPRF coach Joe Parenti of the suspended game’s conclusion, which ended with LTHS leaving the bases loaded. “We were a little flat and that made the game closer than we would’ve liked.”
LTHS coach Kevin Diete was proud of the effort the Lions (6-3) showed when the suspended game — which the Huskies led 12-8 after five innings — resumed.
“It’s tough to continue a game [from another day], but our kids came out and brought some energy,” Diete said. “It was a playoff-type game and we just came up on the wrong side.”
Following the conclusion of the suspended game, the regularly scheduled game started with a scare when LTHS starting pitcher Luke Stonebridge went down on the mound in the first inning after being hit by a line drive by Ethan Glossa. However, he escaped injury and was able to continue.
“Luke said he got his glove on it a little bit to slow the impact,” Diete said. “Luke was more rattled with what happened, but that’s to be expected. He’s tough for staying out there, and give him a lot of credit.”
In the bottom of the second, OPRF’s Jack Flagg connected off Stonebridge for a wind-aided solo home run to right field, giving the Huskies a 1-0 lead.
Meanwhile, OPRF starting pitcher Calvin Proskey kept the Lions’ batters off-balance, mixing in his fastballs and breaking balls. The sophomore allowed one hit and two walks with seven strikeouts in five innings.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Huskies’ bats came to life. Glossa led off with a home run to left, then singles by Aidan Krupp and Dan Michaud followed by a walk to Gio Pamias loaded the bases. Then Flagg greeted LTHS relief pitcher Freddy Rangel with a bases-clearing double to give OPRF (8-2) a 5-0 lead.
“I was looking for a first-pitch fastball. I was looking to attack the zone,” said Flagg.
After Mason Phillips reached on an infield single, Josh Diamond brought home Flagg with a sacrifice fly to make the score 6-0 OPRF. Then the Huskies scored four more runs in the bottom of the fifth to end the contest.
Pamias’ RBI single scored Jack Willsey. Flagg followed with another double to score Michaud, then Phillips singled to plate Pamias.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Miles Kirk’s single to left brought in Flagg and invoked the 10-run mercy rule.
“We hung in for a little bit, and then [OPRF] just took over,” Diete said. “We’ve got a couple of young guys in the lineup, and we’ve got to learn how to put the ball in play and force pressure on the defense. We also have to pitch and play defense ourselves, and we didn’t do those things. We’ve got to pick it up a little bit.”
Unlike most sports in this pandemic-abbreviated IHSA athletic season, there will be a state tournament for baseball, and while both LTHS and OPRF appreciate the opportunity ahead, they both know there’s a lot of work to be done first.
“I’m excited to get that,” said Diete of postseason play. “It’s great for our kids, and it’s great for the younger guys who’ll find out what it’s like to be in the playoffs.”
“We’ve got a couple of injuries, and that’s given some guys opportunities,” Parenti said. “So far, they’ve stepped up and done a good job. We keep harping at the fundamentals; our base running and pitching has been good, but we need to work on our hitting and defense. We’ve got a long way to go and we’ve got to keep it tight.”