Oak Park and River Forest and Fenwick squared off in a highly anticipated high school baseball game on April 12. The nonconference game marked the first time in three years the crosstown rivals have faced each other.
Playing before a large crowd in an electric environment, the Huskies rolled to a 10-0 victory over the visiting Friars.
"It's been a couple of years since we've played Fenwick in the regular season," OPRF coach Joe Parenti said. "There's a good rivalry there. Some of these guys play on the same traveling team, which adds another element. Some of our guys grew up with some of their guys and know them well, so there's that, too. A lot of students and alums showed up. It was fun.
"We're hoping to keep this going every year," he added. "It's a good game for both schools. It provides a nice playoff-like atmosphere so that the kids get to experience the feelings and emotions. Everyone is into the game. And Fenwick is close, so we don't have to worry about traveling."
In a performance Parenti described as impressive, OPRF senior Griffin Holderfield tossed five shutout innings, giving up three hits and striking out ten with no walks.
Offensively, junior shortstop Dylan Whitney (3-for-4, 3 RBIs) and senior catcher Luke Fitzgerald (double, 2 RBIs) came up with clutch doubles in bases-loaded situations. Adam Landsman (2-for-3, 2 RBIs) and Ethan Reinhardt (2-for-3, 2 runs scored) also contributed for the victors.
"We had hits up and down the lineup," Parenti said. "A lot of our guys had good games. Griffin obviously stood out with his performance. He's pitching very well for us."
As for Fenwick, the team struggled on both offense and defense, finishing with just three hits and multiple errors against OPRF. After the Huskies raced out to an 8-0 lead, the Friars never recovered, particularly with Holderfield on the hill throwing a high quality mix of fastballs and sliders.
"The OPRF game was a tough one," said Fenwick senior Lucas Kolovitz. "We came in jacked up and ready to play, but they are a great ballclub with a lot of talent. They just out hit us and they had their ace Griffin on the mound. He was out there looking for blood and he got it. Props to them, and hopefully we get to see them down the road in the playoffs."
Although the Friars are under .500 this spring, the team has shown signs of progress lately with convincing wins overs Marmion, UIC Prep and Leo. In addition to Kolovitz, Cal Malchow and Will Hendricks have led offensively.
Jacob Arquette, James Groom, Will Ledvort, Marty Sosna, Thomas Pollard and Malchow have all seen action on the mound for the Friars.
"We have hit a rough patch this season, but we are staying positive," Kolovitz said. "We have a good attitude going into the second half of the season. Once we find our groove, we'll be a tough team to beat."
Holderfield, a Creighton commit, is part of a pitching staff that has been solid this season. Pepperdine-bound Nathan Diamond has also thrown well in a starting role, while Henry Darrow, Sam Guillot, Aaron Mishoulam and Eamon Toye have all fared well as relievers.
Holderfield (4-0) has not allowed a run in 22 innings. He's struck out 34 while issuing only one walk and boasts a .727 WHIP. Diamond (3-0) has been excellent as well, with a 1.31 ERA, 25 strikeouts, one walk and a .812 WHIP in 16 innings. Darrow owns a 0.618 ERA with 14 punchouts over 11 innings of work.
The Huskies have enjoyed plenty of balance and depth in the lineup as well.
"Dylan Whitney has been fantastic. He's hitting well over .400," Parenti said. "He's a good fielder and baserunner. He started last year for us as a sophomore and has good experience. Ethan (Reinhardt), our starting center-fielder, is having a great year. He's also hitting over .400 and has been real solid defensively. "
Whitney leads the team in hitting with a .419 average, plus 13 RBIs, 17 runs scored and 10 stolen bases. Reinhardt (.414, 14 runs), Tommy Cronin (.357, 3 HR, 15 RBIs), Landsman (.355), Alan Brown (.348, 8 RBIs, 9 SB) lead a formidable lineup.
"We're getting a lot of guys in and out of the lineup, which is always nice. We feel we have a pretty strong bench this year."
One may look at OPRF's record (9-5) and deduce that the Huskies - perennial state title contenders - are just average this season. But Parenti is happy with the team's performance thus far.
"We're pleased with where we're at," he said. "We lost a couple of games due to mistakes and we were flat in those games, too. But it's nothing to be concerned about. We've also won some great games against great opponents. Guys understand that this is a season-long process and we're taking things day-by-day and trying to get better."
If there's one area Parenti would like to see improvement, it's the way the Huskies have started in a few games. He believes flatness has led to some losses.
"We've played well in all phases," Parenti said. "We've pitched and ran the bases well, our defense has been solid, and we have good hitting. But we just seem to have these games where we come out a little flat or make a couple of mental mistakes that compound things.
"We've had four or five games where we've done that for some reason. It's a long season and there are going to be some days where we come out flat and guys aren't into it. But we're working through it. We're staying positive and figuring out to learn from them moving forward."
Although this is Parenti's third year as the Huskies' head coach, it is his first campaign in which he doesn't have an interim tag applied to his title. Yet, he doesn't feel any differently in his approach. Having a talented veteran team as well as good assistant coaches have been helpful in him settling in well.
"To be honest, it doesn't feel any different," Parenti said. "I'm glad I've had a couple of years of experience. To go from being an assistant coach to a head coach was a lot more difficult than I anticipated. But I've had good assistants that have been consistent with me. Each season, I'm learning more and more about not only coaching - whether it's decision-making during games or organizing practices - but also managing the team both on and off the field. I try to check in with the kids, not only baseball-wise but also to see how their lives are going."
Parenti's familiarity with the players extends beyond high school ball
"I've known these kids for a while," he said. "I've gotten to know them since they were in 7th and 8th grades. I've seen them grow up over the last six years and have gotten to know them more on a personal level. So that definitely helps."
The Huskies host four consecutive games this week (April 17-20). The opponents are Proviso West, Downers Grove South and Hinsdale South.
As the regular season moves into second half, Parenti believes the Huskies will turn up their performance the rest of the way, including the state playoffs.
"The senior class is a good group," Parenti said. "They get the tradition of OPRF baseball. They're all about it and want to make their mark on the program."
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