Jessica Hoffman hit a walk-off three-run homer to give Trinity High School a 14-12 victory over crosstown opponent Oak Park and River Forest High School at Triton College on May 31, giving the Blazers a lift heading into this week’s opening rounds of the IHSA Class 3A state playoffs.
“I knew I had to wait back on the ball and make good contact,” said Hoffman of her approach on the final at-bat. “We had runners on base and I just wanted to get the barrel on the ball.”
Her younger sister, Danielle Hoffman, finished with a three-run homer and four RBI, while Meagan Murphy added three hits and two RBI for the Blazers (14-13), who rallied from a 7-0 deficit in the second inning.
“My team believed and answered the bell,” said Trinity coach Bob Osborne of his team’s comeback. “All the credit to the girls, they just did not quit.”
Trinity, which earned a No. 4 seed in Class 3A Sectional 1, ended the regular season on a hot streak.
“We’ve been playing well the last two weeks,” Osborne said. “Our pitching has settled down, and I don’t think anyone can hit with us. We hit up and down the lineup.”
The Hoffman sisters are among the area’s best players and are eager for the postseason to begin.
“Learning from the downs of the season are the reason we’ve improved to be the team we are today,” said Danielle Hoffman. “Our coaching staff has high expectations for us in the final stretch of the season.”
Under Osborne, Trinity’s teams have been known for their long-ball prowess, and this season was no different as the Blazers slugged 41 home runs. In addition, Trinity has received solid pitching from Danielle, Jessica Hoffman and Larissa Caino.
“Jessica and Larissa are both pitching great,” Osborne said. “Danielle was feeling overwhelmed and now she doesn’t have to do everything [on the mound].”
Osborne, who guided led the Blazers to a runner-up finish in the 2010 3A tournament, feels this year’s rigorous schedule has prepared the team well for the state tournament.
“We’re a dangerous .500 team because we’re battle-tested. We’ve lost four extra-inning games this season,” said Osborne. “I feel confident we can get to the sectional championship. … All you need to do is get hot and have a couple of good days, and the next thing you know, you’re heading downstate. This sectional is winnable.”
Montini which split a pair of games with Trinity this season is Sectional 3’s top seed, with Ridgewood seeded No. 2 and Glenbard South No. 3. If the Blazers are to have postseason success, sustaining improved defense is a must according to Osborne.
“We can’t give extra outs and we need to keep the errors to under two,” Osborne said. “Defense has been our biggest hiccup. We can’t let one mistake turn into multiple mistakes that lead to multiple runs.”
Trinity opens up the postseason June 2 against visiting Northside Prep. If the Blazers win, they’ll face either Lake View or Resurrection for the regional title on June 5.
Streaky OPRF faces tough sectional
Jessica Kohlenberger drove in four runs and Ella Kuenster had three hits, including a home run, and scored three runs in the loss to Trinity, a game that underscored coach Mel Kolbusz’s concern about the Huskies’ inconsistency.
“It was a wild one that was tough to lose,” said Kolbusz. “It just felt that whoever had the last at-bat was going to win. Bob [Osborne] and I agreed that this was a good tune-up heading into the playoffs.”
OPRF is the fifth seed in IHSA Class 4A Sectional 6 after wrapping up the regular season with a 14-6 record.
“The season has gone up and down,” he said. “We’ve been streaky and haven’t been able to keep momentum going. We’re not getting many hits with runners on base when we need them, and I hope that gets better.”
Louisville signee Maddie Grant leads OPRF with a .585 batting average, nine home runs and 26 RBI. Other top hitters for the Huskies are Sydney Ross (.518, 5 HR, 21 RBI) and Ella Kuenster (.391, 5 HR, 14 RBI).
Cassie Metzger, who threw a perfect game earlier this season, is OPRF’S leading pitcher with a 7-2 record and a 1.63 ERA. Alex Prouty (4-2) and Emma Brandt (3-1) have also made solid contributions from the mound.
In order for the Huskies to make a deep playoff run, Kolbusz believes they’ll need to play good defense as well as improve their clutch hitting. Considering they’re in a difficult sectional that has top teams in Downers Grove North, Lyons Township, Marist and York, those improvements will be necessary.
“We could win or lose to anybody,” Kolbusz said. “We have to play clean defense; if we make a few errors and give extra baserunners, we’re probably going to suffer. And we’ve got to string hits together. Nobody’s trying to make an out, but somebody’s got to be a hero.”
OPRF’s first playoff game is June 2 against visiting Reavis at 4:30 p.m. Should the Huskies prevail, they will likely have to travel to Lyons Township for the regional title the next day. The Lions defeated OPRF twice this season, 3-2 on April 30 and 5-3 on May 17.