The Oak Park and River Forest High School baseball team opened the season March 20 with a 6-5 loss at Brother Rice. Sophomore Ethan Moore had three hits and scored three runs and senior Patrick Carmody had two RBI for the Huskies, ranked 12th in Prep Baseball Report’s preseason poll.
“I feel really good about this team,” OPRF coach Kevin Campbell said. “We’re very fast and athletic, and this is going to give us the ability to be very flexible with our lineup and take some extra bases.”
OPRF, which went 19-10 and shared the West Suburban Conference Silver Division title with Hinsdale Central last year, features a strong pitching staff led by senior Calvin Proskey. A University of California at Santa Barbara signee, Proskey went 4-1 with 56 strikeouts and a 1.70 ERA in 2022.
“Calvin is one of the top arms in the state,” Campbell said.
Senior Hank Babwin (1-0, 1.75 ERA), along with juniors Cole Benson, Wilson Kruse, and Eli Travis are other pitchers Campbell will rely on.
The Huskies have experience in the lineup. Ethan Moore batted .352, while older brother and senior Ezra had a .325 average. Junior outfielder Mason Phillips returns for his third consecutive season on the varsity, and a newcomer to keep an eye on is sophomore infielder Brady Green.
“We have a lot of experience returning at the plate,” Campbell said. “I believe we’ll be a much better run-producing team this season.”
OPRF plays a difficult schedule, with non-conference highlights including the Warrior Spring Classic in Riverdale, Tennessee, from March 27-April 1 and the crosstown showdown with Fenwick under the lights at Triton College in River Grove on May 10.
Campbell thinks Downers Grove North, Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township will be the Huskies’ main competitors for the conference title.
“The expectation is to defend the conference championship,” he said. “After that, I feel we can compete for a trip downstate, but it’s a tough road, and we need to focus on each game in front of us first.”
OPRF has its home opener March 22 against Libertyville, with first pitch scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
Fenwick splits first two games of 2023
Fenwick High School started this season splitting the first two games. In the opener on March 15, the Friars rolled to a 6-1 victory at Reavis. Senior pitcher Luis Gonzalez went four innings, allowing a run on two hits. Jordan Vazquez pitched three innings of one-hit relief to notch the save, and also went 2-for-4 at the plate, including a two-run homer.
On March 20, Fenwick managed just three hits and fell 3-2 in eight innings at Marist. Junior Mike Sosna started and went five innings, allowing a run on two hits with five strikeouts.
“We’re playing a very competitive schedule, because we know that our guys want and need to be challenged,” said coach Kyle Kmiecik, in his first full season after taking over for longtime coach Dave Hogan late last year.
The Friars aim to keep the momentum they had at the end of last season, when they finished 17-15. Fenwick got hot in the IHSA Class 3A tournament, winning regional and sectional championships, before losing 8-6 to Crystal Lake South in a rain-shortened Schaumburg Supersectional game.
Fenwick returns 21 players, led by senior pitchers Gonzalez (University of Wisconsin at Parkside) and Vazquez (Concordia University of Wisconsin).
“Luis is an absolute bulldog on the mound. He makes big pitches in big situations and attacks the zone with three pitches,” Kmiecik said. “Jordan throws mid to high 80s with a hard, sharp breaking ball. He’s the emotional leader of the team.”
When Gonzalez and Vazquez play as infielders, Sosna and classmate Josh Wicker are more than capable on the mound. The latter two are part of a large and talented junior class, which has outfielder Will Gladden, catcher Finnley Koch and utility infielder Tanner Malchow among the Friars’ key contributors.
“Having so many juniors who are now playing their second year on varsity is very helpful because they have quite a bit of experience,” Kmiecik said.
After road games at Hinsdale Central on March 22 and IC College Prep on March 23, Fenwick has its home opener March 24 at the Dominican Priory against Lake Park.