Second place not bad for off-season play

Friars win 20, take first trip to IHSCA Finals

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When a team wins 20 out of 26 games, advances to the state summer tournament finals for the first time, and subsequently finishes second in the Illinois High School Coaches Association playoffs like the Fenwick baseball team did, such impressive accomplishments assuredly merit a nickname.

Considering Joe DiCanio's charges with the Friars' football program are already billed as "Men of Steel," compliments of the Fenwick fight song, perhaps the baseball guys will simply be remembered as "Hogan's Heroes," in tribute to their veteran skipper Dave Hogan.

The nickname seems appropriate considering the Friars' Herculean effort during the summer state tournament. Trailing Lake Zurich 6-0 during the round-robin finals, the Friars stormed back with seven runs in the top of the sixth for an improbable 7-6 victory. The remarkable comeback propelled the Friars all the way into the championship game, where they lost 4-1 to Sandburg Friday night at Benedictine University.

"In the first part of the Lake Zurich game, we were being good, charitable Catholic guys making errors and giving up runs left and right," Hogan quipped. "That's to take nothing away from Lake Zurich, which is a very good team, but we were not helping our cause. To come back and win the game was obviously a huge confidence boost."

The Friars then fell prey to the old baseball axiom, "momentum is only as good as your next starting pitcher," in the form of Sandburg hurler Greg Billo. Honored as the tournament MVP, Billo (9-0) threw a complete game four-hitter, containing the explosive Fenwick offense. Steve Kaffel paced Sandburg (27-1) offensively with two hits and two runs scored.

In the fourth inning with the bases loaded and no outs, the Friars seized an early 1-0 lead when Reid Rooney scored from third on a wild pitch. However, that would be the only run Fenwick scored on the evening.

Prior to the title game, the Friars enjoyed a series of notable wins during summer competition. Fenwick defeated Hinsdale South 3-0 in the state semifinals behind a four-hit shutout effort from Miles O'Donnell, and also rallied from three runs down against Jacobs to pull out a 7-3 victory. To advance to state finals competition, the Friars knocked off defending summer state champion Lyons Township 5-3.

"The last two weeks of summer [league], we played excellent baseball," Hogan said. "We beat some very fine teams and our confidence level is sky high looking forward to next spring. Even after losing the championship game, you could see there weren't really any feelings of anger or frustration. It was more like, 'Hey guys, we can do this.'"

Looking ahead to the upcoming spring campaign, Fenwick should battle with perennial powers St. Rita and Brother Rice in the Chicago Catholic League for top billing, as well as potentially being one of the elite teams in the state.

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