The Oak Park and River Forest High School softball team entered its IHSA Class 4A regional title game May 28 hoping to spring an upset on visiting Taft, the third seed in the Maine South Sectional.
Things started promising as the Huskies took an early lead, but the Eagles rallied for a 5-4 victory in walk-off fashion on a RBI double by Elena Gonzalez with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.
“It was one of the better regional championship games I’ve been a part of,” said OPRF coach J.P. Coughlin.
OPRF (10-16) took a 4-1 lead in the top of the fourth with a three-run rally highlighted by a two-run homer by Ella Kuenster. But Taft (23-7) responded in the fifth with three runs of their own to tie the game.
Then with two outs in the seventh, Huskies’ pitcher Aria Hammerschmidt hit the Eagles’ Jazmyn Casas with a pitch. That proved costly as Gonzalez drilled a double to left. OPRF left fielder Kelly Cortez got the ball in quickly to Kuenster, but Casas beat her relay throw to catcher Tyler Brock.
“I thought we executed the relay really well, but [Casas] was just a bit faster,” Coughlin said.
Hammerschmidt allowed five runs and eight hits over 6.2 innings, with three walks and two strikeouts.
“Aria was incredible,” Coughlin said. “The burden we put on her shoulders this season was not my intention as a freshman, but it’s what was needed and she stepped up.”
The Huskies lose nine seniors to graduation.
“I’m really bummed about not being able to coach the seniors anymore,” said Coughlin. “They’ve had the worst the last few years. I’d have loved to take them to the sectional. I think we would’ve had a good shot at winning it.”
But OPRF will return a solid core next year in Brock, Cortez, Hammerschmidt, Rachel Buchta and pitchers Jordan Alioto and Anne Stine, among others.
“Our freshman team went undefeated and our junior varsity team lost just four games this year,” Coughlin said. “We’ve got a lot of talent, and we’ll be back.”
It took one big swing by Whitney Young to end the OPRF baseball team’s season May 25.
Brendan Summerhill’s three-run homer in the top of the fifth was the decisive blow as the host Dolphins (18-15) defeated the Huskies 4-2 in an IHSA Class 4A regional semifinal.
“I thought it was a routine fly ball, but it just carried a lot further than expected with the wind,” said OPRF coach Kevin Campbell. “[Huskies pitcher] David [Andolina] did a good job approaching that at-bat [to Summerhill], but got unlucky with the jet stream.”
The only offense for OPRF (19-10) came in the bottom of the third. Ethan Moore (2-for-3) led off with a triple and scored on Mason Phillips’ single. Kevin Cortez’s squeeze bunt plated Phillips for a 2-0 lead. But the Huskies managed just four hits for the game.
“We only had one hit from our top seven in the lineup,” Campbell said. “Ethan and Mason at the bottom carried us, but it wasn’t enough.”
Overall, Campbell felt OPRF had a solid season and is looking ahead to building upon it.
“We have a lot of returning players, plus we have players from the lower levels that can fill in for the departing seniors,” he said. “I’m excited about the future; we’ve just got to hit the ground running next year.”
The Fenwick baseball team opened the postseason in rousing fashion, outscoring its opponents by a combined 42-0 to win its own IHSA Class 3A regional.
The Friars (15-14) routed Pritzker 19-0 on May 25 and blanked Steinmetz 23-0 on May 28. Although the opposition wasn’t strong, interim Fenwick coach Kyle Kmiecik said the team took nothing for granted.
“We can’t take any teams lightly,” he said. “We’ve got to come in ready to go.”
Against Steinmetz, Luis Gonzales drove in four runs and Caden Donnelly and Ryan Lacewski each had three RBI. Fenwick is hoping the increased offensive production continues as the competition level increases this week during sectional play.
“We were able to come out hitting and get everyone in,” Kmiecik said. “Moving forward, we know things are going to get tougher, so we’ve got to clean things up and get ready to go.”
The Friars, seeded second in their own sectional, host seventh-seeded St. Patrick in a semifinal June 2 at 4:30 p.m. The winner meets either top-seeded Notre Dame or fourth-seeded Ridgewood for the sectional title on June 4.