Oak Park and River Forest High School softball players celebrate their third-place finish at the IHSA Class 4A state championships after recording the final out against Barrington on June 10 in Peoria. | Visual Image Photography

The Oak Park and River Forest High School softball team came one strike from advancing to the IHSA Class 4A state championship game in Peoria.

After a two-out, two-run bloop single gave Yorkville a 4-3 walk-off victory in a 13-inning semifinal on June 9 — the longest game in Class 4A state tournament history – the Huskies returned to their hotel dejected.

“That was probably one of the best games I’ve played in. It’s great to even be a part of that,” senior left fielder Kelly Cortez said. “After that heartbreaker, we had our quiet time but at the end of the day, we came together and we’re like, ‘We really want to win (our final game).’” 

Scouting the other semifinal, OPRF coach J.P. Coughlin messaged his players about trying to lift spirits.

Their response was overwhelming: ice cream. 

“I said, ‘What kind?’ Big mistake. I bought 15 different kinds,” Coughlin said. 

The Huskies (31-8) finished with a truly sweet victory. 

On June 10, they defeated Barrington 2-1 in the third-place game to complete their phenomenal turnaround season on a winning note. 

“We weren’t here to get fourth. We had an amazing season and we wanted to end on a very good high,” senior center field Anna Stine said.  

“After all of the tears and crying, we said all we can do is control whether we get third or fourth,” said junior catcher Tyler Brock. 

The Huskies proved much, reaching their first state finals since 2017 and after a 10-17 record in 2022.

Before nearly beating No. 2-ranked Yorkville (36-3), the Huskies had won 13 straight and 18 of 19, capturing the West Suburban Conference Silver title at 11-1. 

Earning all-conference were seniors Bella Morales and Stine; juniors Jordan Alioto, Rachel Buchta and Brock; and sophomores Maura Carmody and Elyssa Hasapis (team-high 45 RBI and 14 homers).

“It was a tremendous year and the culture of this team was top-notch,” Coughlin said.

Top-rated Marist (37-2) defeated Yorkville 9-1 for the championship. Barrington (35-7) finished fourth for the second straight year.

Buchta was greeted Saturday morning with balloons and decorations for her 17th birthday.

“I would say this is probably the most memorable season of softball I’ve ever played. It wasn’t just winning. I just love my entire team,” Buchta said.

OPRF softball team | Bill Stone

The Huskies greeted Barrington with both of their runs in the top of the first on singles by Stine and Brock and run-scoring singles from Buchta and sophomore Anna Topel. Brock finished 2 for 3 and Cortez and Hasapis also had singles.

The Fillies scored in the bottom of the first with two walks, an infield single and hit batter against junior starting pitcher Aria Hammerschmidt. 

Coming from right field to relieve, Alioto got a double play and strikeout to end the first. Alioto allowed just two singles the rest of the way with three strikeouts and one walk. 

With the tying run on third, the game ended with a flyout to Stine.

“It was a big emotional feeling, being my last game,” Stine said. “I was so proud of everyone in that moment.” 

During the winter, Alioto seriously considered not pitching in her return to varsity. Before the third-place game, Alioto (4-0) only had pitched 25 innings.

“This is one of the best [outings] for sure because I went the full game basically,” Alioto said. “I feel like I haven’t done that all season so it was amazing. I was really happy.” 

Morales (12-5), who threw 171 pitches in the semifinals, could have relieved but said there was no need. Alioto was in control. 

“Jordan was just terrific,” Coughlin added. “So proud of her. That kid’s grown so much in one year.”

Both OPRF and Yorkville scored in the fifth. Stine’s two-out double scored sophomore Gloria Hronek, who singled.

In the top of the 13th, the Huskies had a runner thrown out at home, but Buchta’s two-out single scored Brock and Alioto doubled to score Buchta for a 3-1 lead.

The Foxes had four of 12 hits in the 13th. The third hit, which deflected off Morales’ leg with two outs, made the score 3-2. After a walk loaded the bases came the game-winner to short left field.

OPRF’s eight hits were two each by Stine, Hasapis, who also doubled, Buchta and Hronek. Yorkville had five errors.

“I’m kind of frustrated because they weren’t super crazy hard hits. They were bloopy ones. That made it all the more disappointing than if it was an out-of-the-park hit,” Morales said. “It would have been nice to get to that championship game, but softball happens and I’m so glad to be here at this point.”

Local softball players earn all-state honors

Four softball players from Oak Park and River Forest High School along with three from Fenwick High School received all-state honors from the Illinois Coaches Association on June 12.

For the Huskies, sophomore Elyssa Hasapis was named to the IHSA Class 4A First Team. Junior Tyler Brock and senior Bella Morales were named to the Second Team, while Rachel Buchta got selected for the Third Team.

For the Friars, junior Madelyn Entler, sophomore Kailey Janda and senior Talia Lorenzo were named to the IHSA Class 3A Third Team.

Join the discussion on social media!