OPRF pitcher Aria Hammerschmidt throws a pitch against Fenwick on May 20. The freshman allowed one unearned run and two hits in the Huskies’ 5-1 victory. (Carol Dunning/Contributor)

The Oak Park and River Forest High School softball team concluded the regular season on a high note, defeating crosstown rival Fenwick High School 5-1 on May 20 at OPRF, ending the Friars’ six-game winning streak.

“We’re a work in progress, but I think we’re playing better,” said OPRF coach J.P. Coughlin. “It’s going to come down to our defense; when we field well, we play well.”

Another key to postseason success for the Huskies is pitching. Against Fenwick, OPRF got an outstanding effort from freshman Aria Hammerschmidt, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before it was broken up with one out by Madelyn Entler.

“It was tough,” said Hammerschmidt of losing the no-hitter. “But we ended up winning, so it’s OK. I couldn’t have done this without [catcher] Tyler [Brock].”

The OPRF (9-15) offense broke out in a big way in the bottom of the first inning. With one out, Ella Kuenster tripled to right and scored on a Cate Barkdoll single. After Martha Lipic (2-for-3) singled, it appeared Fenwick pitcher Talia Lorenzo might escape the jam when Brock struck out.

But Kelly Regan blooped a single into right to plate Barkdoll, then Anne Stine’s pop-up to center fell in between fielders for a two-run single and a 4-0 Huskie lead.

“I brought the wind gods up for that first inning,” Coughlin said. “We got a couple of breaks.”

Fenwick coach Bryan Hoffman also felt the wind worked against his defense early on, especially after Kuenster’s triple.

“I’m thinking it’s a 1-1 game without the wind blowing in so hard,” he said. “That led to those balls dropping in during the first.”

In the bottom of the fifth, OPRF tacked on another run. Kelly Cortez (2-for-3) singled and stole second with one out. After advancing to third on a Lorenzo wild pitch, she scored on a two-out RBI single by Lipic.

Fenwick (12-14-1) averted the shutout in the seventh when Entler scored with two outs on an error by Lipic at first. Sophie Stone followed with a single, but Hammerschmidt ended any hopes of a late Friars’ rally by retiring Molly Mullen on a groundout. 

Hammerschmidt finished with no earned runs allowed on two hits to go with two walks and four strikeouts. Lorenzo settled down after the first, going six innings with five runs allowed on 10 hits, no walks, and five strikeouts.

“We hit only three or four balls hard all game,” Coughlin said. “Playing from ahead is certainly easier than playing from behind, and we’ve done too much of the latter this year.”

OPRF is seeded sixth in the IHSA Class 4A Maine South Sectional and hosts a regional beginning May 25 against Jones. Should the Huskies win, third-seeded Taft is the likely opponent May 27 for the regional title.

Meanwhile, Fenwick is seeded sixth in the IHSA Class 3A Glenbard South Sectional. The Friars open regional play at Triton College on May 24 (after press time) with a regional semifinal against Prosser. 

Should Fenwick win, a likely third meeting this year with regional host Trinity would occur May 27 for the title. The Friars lost to the Blazers 7-0 on April 21, and the teams played to a 1-1 tie May 7.

“We feel great going into the playoffs,” Hoffman said. “We wanted to see a great team like OPRF to prepare us for the postseason. We’re going to have to play good defense and manufacture runs.”

Trinity (10-11-1), seeded fourth in the IHSA Class 3A Glenbard South Sectional, opens the postseason May 24 (after press time) hosting Payton Prep in a regional semifinal at Triton College.

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