The Oak Park and River Forest High School baseball team is hoping to take advantage of its No. 2 sectional seed and ride that fortune deep into the state tournament.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, there are no designated host schools for regional and sectional play this postseason. In each round, the higher-seeded team is the host.
This means that as long as the Huskies remain in the playoffs, they’re guaranteed three home games. And should top-seeded Lane Tech lose before the sectional title game, OPRF would host that as well.
“Having the No. 2 seed and home-field advantage is huge this year,” said OPRF coach Joe Parenti. “Usually you play the regional and sectional in two weeks, but this year, it’s one week. So, it’s a test of your pitching.
“In the past, you could ride two guys and go back and forth. This year, you can’t, and you’re going to have to use everyone in your bullpen.”
Fortunately for the Huskies, they have good pitching depth, which includes Aidan Krupp, Calvin Proskey, David) Andolina, Jack Spinks, Cole Shamhart and Evan Eberle.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys that we like, and we’re going to definitely need them,” Parenti said.
But if OPRF is to make another extended postseason run, it’ll have to do so without ace pitcher Grant Holderfield, who is out for the season with an injury. Duing the Huskies’ game against Lyons Township on April 29, Holderfield slipped trying to field a ball and fractured his hand.
“The good news is that he’s expected to make a full recovery in time to pitch for Indiana next season,” Parenti said. “We miss Grant and would love to have him for the playoffs; you can’t replace a guy like him, but it does create an opportunity for someone else to step up.”
The Huskies have had a balanced offense this season, led by leadoff hitter and shortstop Jared Cortez. His on-base percentage is around .600, drawing 28 walks and striking out only twice. Moreover, he hasn’t been caught stealing in 20 attempts.
“Jared is the best baserunner I’ve seen since I started coaching varsity in 2008,” Parenti said.
OPRF (14-7) finished second in the West Suburban Silver this year behind Hinsdale Central, which beat the Huskies in a game Parenti called a “wake-up call.”
“We got a taste of what playing postseason baseball looks like, and I’m glad it happened then instead of getting the experience during the playoffs,” Parenti said.
The Huskies are scheduled to host Proviso East on June 4 in the regional semifinal round. Should the Huskies prevail, they’ll face either Maine West or Von Steuben for the regional title on June 7.