Oak Park wins 8-inning thriller to sweep Downers North



By Drake Skleba
Senior Writer

DOWNERS GROVE- With the game knotted at 4-4, with two outs in the top of the eighth, Oak Park senior shortstop Charlie Fencik dug in against Downers Grove North starting left-handed pitcher Luke Fisher. Fencik, who had a clutch two-out RBI double in the sixth to give the Huskies a 4-2 lead, would come through again, this time ripping a two-out RBI single, scoring winning pitcher Alex Rice to lead Oak Park (16-7; 11-4) to a 5-4 extra-inning thriller on Monday.

“Big conference victory for the Huskies today,” said Fencik. “I went up to the plate in the eighth trying to keep my hands back and was able to hit an inside pitch for the game-winner. I had a real good day at the plate but I must keep working to get better there and in the field.” 

The never-say-die Trojans of Downers Grove North (16-7; 11-4) would knock Rice out with one out in the bottom of the eighth on a booming double from junior second baseman Ray Greco. SIU-bound Connor Kopach, having reached on an error, stopped at third on Greco’s double. Oak Park head coach Chris Ledbetter went to senior right-hander Henry Cappell to nail down the save for Rice. Cappell pitched a complete-game victory in the Huskies twin-bill sweep of DGN on Saturday in Oak Park.

“In all of my 13 years of coaching here at Oak Park I have never brought in one of my pitchers who had pitched a complete-game victory for us on Saturday, in relief on Monday,” said Oak Park head coach Chris Ledbetter. “The game was such a momentum builder for the team, and for Henry we made that move and Henry came through for us to pick up the save.”

Cappell immediately plunked Trojan third baseman Joe Provenzano to load the bases. Cappell retired Troy Southard on a pop-up to Fencik. Up to the plate stepped up Trojan centerfielder James Sheldon, whose clutch two-out, two RBI double tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the seventh. Cappell threw three fastballs past the hard-hitting Sheldon, and the Huskies were tied with the Trojans for first-place in the mighty West Suburban Conference Silver Division.

“In our-state championship run of 2012, we brought in Henry in relief in a 2-1 game against Evanston,” said Ledbetter. “He told me afterward that he was really nervous in that key situation. Today he said he was feeling stronger than Saturday and he was totally confident on the mound in the similar situation. This was a truly beneficial experience for Henry and the team.”

Oak Park scored three times in the top of the fourth to grab an early 3-0 lead. Huskie sophomore catcher Pat Rumoro crushed a two-run double over the centerfielder’s head to give OP a 2-0 lead. With two-outs, junior Andy Nelson ripped a clutch RBI single to increase the Huskie lead to 3-0. Rumoro also gets credit for the save for making two run-saving stops behind the plate in the bottom of the eighth.

“It was awesome today because we knew we had to win to give ourselves a chance for the conference title,” said Rumoro. “We brought out the big bats today. I feel I contributed a lot to our victory. I had a big two-run double in the fourth. We feel really confident but we must continue to play well.”

Downers Grove North answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth. The Trojans scored on an infield RBI single from junior Emil Baftirovski and a Huskie miscue.

So after the dust has cleared, Oak Park and Downers Grove North are both 11-4 in the Silver Division with three games remaining. Downers Grove North has a doubleheader at home with Hinsdale Central (11-10; 7-7) and then travel to Hinsdale to face the Red Devils next Monday. Oak Park will be in Hillside for a twin-bill with last-place Proviso West on Saturday and then return to Oak Park on Monday to face the Panthers. 

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