No. 6 Oak Park Punches Ticket To Joliet With Win Over Glenbard North

By Colin Sallee
Area Scout

SCHAUMBURG, IL - Responding to adversity is something the Huskies of Oak Park-River Forest hadn’t had to do much of this postseason, allowing just one run in four games prior to Monday night.

However, when they found themselves tied at three with two innings left to play, their bats did not freeze, and they out-hit the Glenbard North Panthers to claim the 7-5 victory, cementing their spot in the 4A State Semifinals.

“We hadn’t given up many runs in the playoffs up until this point,” said Oak Park coach Chris Ledbetter. “When we threw up two in the second inning and pushed it to three-run game, I told our boys that this thing is far from over. They’re going to respond, and you’ll have to find a way to get it done.”

Ledbetter couldn’t have been more accurate.

After the Huskies (32-7) built on their early 1-0 lead by way of a two-out, two-RBI single by catcher Pat Rumoro in the second, the Panthers (26-11) wasted little time getting back in the mix.

The action packed third inning saw designated hitter Mark Cerabona set the table for the Panthers with a walk.

After a fly-out to right, shortstop Nolan Jasinski singled, bringing Cerbona to the third base as junior second basemen Nick Barrett stepped to the plate. Barrett, who reached base twice and scored, and drove in two in the contest, proceeded to pepper a deep fly ball off the left field wall, plating Jasinski and Cerbona.

The Panther starting pitcher, Luke Greenberg, followed Barrett in the batting order, and decided to help his own cause with an RBI single, tying the game at three apiece.

“We haven’t been down much this year, but the times we have been, we’ve always tied it up or taken the lead,” said Glenbard North manager Rich Smelko. “I’m proud of how these guys competed tonight, and all year long.”

Play slowed down as each team’s pitching and defense settled in, keeping both teams off the board until the sixth inning. When that sixth inning came along, Ledbetter’s team answered his challenge and responded in an orderly fashion.

After a leadoff groundout, the Huskies had four consecutive batters reach against Glenbard North senior Sam Ledbetter, who came in from third base to relieve Greenberg.

The major blow came when senior outfielder Ryan Fish scorched a three-run triple into the right-center alley, igniting his teammates and OPRF spectators alike. “I hadn’t been swinging it particularly well up to this point in the playoffs,” said Fish, as he was embraced by his teammate Jeremy Gaines. “We come out here and do our best to attack the baseball, and attack it early. I got a first pitch fastball in the zone and was able to find the barrel.” Oak Park added a total of four runs in their half of the sixth, extending their lead to 7-3.

The Panthers did what they’ve done most of the year, and that’s respond, as they added two of their own in the following frame to cut the deficit to 7-5, but it was too little too late.

The big sixth inning, and junior Hank Christie was all the Huskies needed. Christie, who threw a complete game-ten inning gem on Saturday against Evanston to advance to the Super-Sectional was solid in relief, yielding just one earned run in two innings of work. A slick 4-6-3 double play in the sixth started by Gaines, the junior second-basemen who’s committed to play at Missouri, ended whatever threat the Panthers thought they were mustering.

“A lot of kids contributed to this win today,” said Ledbetter after the victory.

“There’s no selfishness on this team. The guys truly play for one another and now it’s paying off as we’re heading down state. And I’ll tell you what, it never gets old heading down there.”

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