By Marty Farmer
Several north suburban high schools such as Glenbrook South, Maine South, Notre Dame and host Loyola Academy comprise the top end of a Class 4A sectional bracket.
However, geographic outliers/crosstown rivals Oak Park and River Forest and Fenwick could easily crash the party as the sectional's top seed and a talented dark horse, respectively.
Although OPRF (20-12, 12-6 West Suburban Silver) faltered a bit down the final stretch of the regular season with several conference losses, the Huskies have the talent, desire and tradition to make a deep run in the state playoffs.
"The regular season went well overall," OPRF coach Joe Parenti said. "Unfortunately, we struggled a little bit towards the end. Our schedule was significantly harder the second half of the season. But we feel good about where we are as a team heading into the playoffs."
The team features an outstanding pair of starting pitchers in seniors Griffin Holderfield and Nathan Diamond. The Creighton-bound Holderfield is 7-1 with a .778 earned run average and 84 strikeouts. Diamond, who will play college baseball at Pepperdine, owns a 6-1 record and .667 ERA with 64 punchouts.
Offensively, OPRF has a deep and versatile lineup. Top hitters include Dylan Whitey (.353 batting average, 31 runs scored, 16 stolen bases), Luke Fitzgerald (.333, 16 RBIs), slugger Tommy Cronin (.338, 7 home runs, 28 RBIs), Adam Landsman and Ethan Reinhardt (both hitting .329) as well as Alan Brown (.323, 19 stolen bases).
The Huskies take on Whitney Young Wednesday, May 22 (4:30 p.m.) at the Maine West Regional. With a win, OPRF moves on the regional final Saturday, May 25 at 11 a.m in DesPlaines.
"We always set the bar high for the playoffs," Diamond said. "We've really worked hard on our hitting lately and our pitching has been consistently strong most of the season. If we continue to get our bats moving well, we can definitely make a deep run in the playoffs."
The regional host Warriors have knocked the Huskies out of the playoffs the past two seasons.
"The irony of being in the Maine West regional is they have taken us out the past two years but we invite the challenge," Parenti said, "We're looking forward to redeeming ourselves.
"It's a tough sectional overall. All those teams up North know each other and have scouted each other. Plus, anything can happen in the playoffs."
Friars open at home
Fenwick, the No. 9 seed in sectional, finished 15-15 in the regular season. However, the Friars enter the postseason well prepared after playing several highly regarded teams in the Chicago Catholic League and solid non-conference opponents as well.
"Our record does not show how good we are," said Fenwick center fielder Lucas Kolovitz. "When we play the way everyone knows we can, we are a tough team to beat. We can stay in it with any team."
The Friars could also benefit from hosting a regional.
Fenwick faces Notre Dame on Friday, May 24 (4:30 p.m.) at the Priory in River Forest. Second seed Glenbrook South plays the winner of Jones vs. Maine East in the other semifinal.
The Fenwick Regional championship game is Saturday, May 25 at noon.
"Being at home is a huge plus for us because we get a good student section out there for home games," said Kolovitz, a three-sport standout who will play college baseball at Purdue University Fort Waye. "Friar Nation does not disappoint and they will be a big help for the regionals."
In terms of ability, Fenwick has multiple difference makers on the field. TJ Pollard, Jacob Arquette and Marty Sosna headline the pitching staff. Right fielder Will Hendricks, shortstop Cal Malchow, Kolovitz and third baseman Greyson Cone are top position players. They also comprise the top end of the batting order (1 through 4). Fernando Flores plays second base as smoothly as the sound of his alliterative name.
Kolovitz was recently named the CCL Green Division MVP, while Malchow, Hendricks and Pollard joined him as All-CCL selections.
"We are confident because the past few games we have played our style baseball and we are looking good," Kolovitz said. "Our fielding needs to be at its best and our pitching has to stay as strong as it has been. In terms of hitting, we just have to play small ball, get some hits and then drive them in however we can."
Answer Book 2018
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