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Stopped by a sprinkle: Richards and Shepard baseball tie after field irrigation system goes awry

By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Shepard baseball coach Frank DiFoggio considered the bizarre ending of the Astros’ regular-season finale against Richards to be appropriate for 2021.

The District 218 rivals were deadlocked in the ninth inning after battling for nearly 3½ hours when the field’s sprinkler system suddenly turned on. Richards coach Jeff Kortz said no one at the field had a key to turn the sprinklers off.

Thus, the game — a nonconference contest because the teams had already played their two South Suburban Red games — ended in a 7-7 tie.

“This was the most unique season of all time and there you go, this is another thing we can add to that list,” DiFoggio said. “This is our neighborhood rival. I went here. Coach Kortz and I know each other really well. We decided to do each other’s Senior Day this year. So, it was a fun game to play.”

Shepard (14-9-1) rallied from a 6-3 deficit with four runs in the sixth inning.

Cole Hermanson and Eric Longfield had RBI singles in the frame, while Owen McGovern drew a bases-loaded walk. The Astros also pushed across a run on a wild pitch.

Richards (10-12-1) came back to tie in the bottom of the sixth with a two-out rally as Kevin Laurencell walked, moved to second on a single by Ovidio Montes (2-for-3) and scored on a base hit by Vinnie Fuentes (2-for-4, three RBIs).

The Bulldogs had a golden opportunity to win it in the bottom of the seventh as an error, a bunt single by Matt Huttner and a Huttner stolen base put runners at second and third with no outs.

Shepard reliever Matt Maloney, though, wriggled out of trouble with the help of his defense and some questionable base running by Richards.

After the runner at third failed to come home on a fly out to center, Jacob Gonzalez blooped a single into short right field.

The runner, waiting to tag in case the ball was caught, got a late break to the plate and was thrown out on a strike from right fielder Joseph Sass. Maloney got the next hitter to ground out to send the game to extra innings.

“Matt did a fantastic job,” DiFoggio said. “I went out there and gave him the option. I said, ‘We can walk the bases loaded, or you can go for the strikeout. What do you want to do?’ He said, ‘I feel really good, let me go for it.’ Then we made a couple good plays, threw the guy out at the plate, so it worked out.”

Junior catcher Nikolai Bucio went 2-for-4 with two RBIs for Shepard.

“We kept going back and forth,” Bucio said. “It was pretty cool just to be in a game like that. A lot of games are just one team dominating and it’s not as fun. This was definitely the craziest way to end a back-and-forth game, though.”

Before the game, Richards celebrated its seven seniors.

“Our seniors have hung in there,” Kortz said. “What happened last year killed some development for them. We would have liked to see them get those at-bats last year and get those innings on the mound and keep learning. COVID has hurt our bonding. Our ping pong tournaments downstairs and all the little things we do just aren’t there. But our seniors have kept battling.”

Laurencell scored three runs for Richards, while Huttner was 2-for-4 on his Senior Day.

“It was a great day to play some ball,” Huttner said. “It was a good game up until the end. We made a couple errors on the bases and in the field. We didn’t get guys in off the bases when we needed to. It was a great experience, though. I love the program and love playing for coach Kortz.”

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Pro Soccer Report: Red Stars will miss three big guns during World Cup qualifying

By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

Having world-class players on your team is a blessing.

But during times like these, it can also be a curse.

World-class players help NWSL teams win games. They also miss chunks of time during the season because of their commitments to playing in international competitions.

For much of July, the Chicago Red Stars will be without goal-scoring machine Mallory Pugh and one of the world’s top goalies in Alyssa Naeher. The two will be busy through representing the United States in a World Cup qualifier in Monterrey, Mexico.

Bianca St-Georges (two goals this season) will miss games while playing for Canada.

The Red Stars, 4-1-4 and unbeaten in their last seven games, visit NY/NJ Gotham on July 2, host North Carolina on July 10 and visit Houston on July 16. The three should be back for the July 30 game when the Red Stars host San Diego at Soldier Field in Chicago as a part of a doubleheader with the Fire.

Pugh has six of the Red Stars’ 14 goals this season, despite missing two games because of an injury. Naeher had a string of three straight shutouts in June.

First-year coach Chris Petrucelli is ready to battle without three of his big guns.

“One of the things I’m happy about it that we have played a lot of players,” he said. “We have a lot of depth. We’ve used players in different situations.

“I think we’re going to have to try to match up players with styles we’re playing against. It’s going to be harder without Mal and it’s going to be harder without Alyssa and Bianca. But other teams are going to be losing people, too.”

Goalie Alyssa Naeher, who had three straight shutouts in June, will miss three games in July to represent the United States in a World Cup qualifier in Mexico. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Reflection

With a short break in the season, Pretrucelli reflected on the first nine games in his tenure. He is happy with the progress his team has made in 2022.

“Overall, it’s been really good,” he said. “Early, we were giving up goals on set pieces and we solved that a little bit. We’ve made progress in some areas. If you go back and watch us play in the Challenge Cup and watch us play now, we’re a better team (now). We hope we’ll be an even better team in July and August and September.”

 

New assistant named

Former Red Stars assistant coach Julianne Sitch threw out a ceremonial first pitch before the White Sox hosted Baltimore on June 23.

The next day, her replacement was named.

Sitch took the men’s soccer head coaching position at the University of Chicago in April, right at the start of the Challenge Cup season. After a 2 ½-month search, the Red Stars have named Morinao Imaizumi to take her spot.

“Imaizumi is well-established and incredibly thoughtful in his approach, with experience coaching some of the best players in the game,” Michelle Lomnicki, Red Stars associate general manager, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to bring in a coach with his knowledge, coupled with his vision and playing philosophy, that perfectly aligns with our club. We are excited to bring in Ima to round out our coaching staff.”

“I’m excited to add Morinao to our team. He’s a highly respected and extremely talented coach,” Petrucelli said. “He has worked with some of the world’s best players and coached some outstanding teams.”

Imaizumi, a Japanese native, held multiple coaching roles at the collegiate and international levels. He was a crucial member of the Japan Women’s National Team as an assistant coach in 2004, where he coached current Red StarnYuki Nagasato in the Olympics. The 61-year-old was the head coach of the U-17 and U-20 teams from 2004 to 2006.

“I’m excited for this fantastic opportunity,” he said. “As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve always kept my eyes open for a chance to work on the professional level. I feel very fortunate to be selected to work with the Red Stars and their many talented players.”

 

Opinions Voiced

NWSL teams took to making statements Friday after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“This ruling will have a resounding detrimental effect across the nation, particularly in marginalized and underserved communities,” the Red Stars’ statement said. “We believe reproductive health choice are fundamental human rights, and the right to choose should remain accessible, affordable and equitable for all.”

The NSWL’s statement read: “The Supreme Court’s ruling today denies individuals in this country the full liberty and equality that is the cornerstone of a just society.

“Reproductive rights are human rights. Until every individual has the same freedoms as their neighbor, our work is not done. We will continue to make our voices heard. The NWSL is more than just a soccer league; we are a collective who will stand up every day for what is right.”

 

Victor-y for Fire II

Victor Bezerra scored a pair of goals andAlex Monis and Ryan Quintos each added one in the Chicago Fire II’s 4-3 victory over the New England Revolution II in an MLS NEXT Pro game on Sunday at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview.

“Yeah, I thought it was a really good performance from the boys,” said Bezerra. “I kind of felt like after the first goal, a second one was definitely coming.”

Bezerra, Monis and Josh Penn each have four goals to lead the Fire (3-6-4, 14 points). New England fell to 7-3-3 with 25 points.

The Fire II visit Miami (5-7-1) on Saturday.

Stagg grad Laila Barakat leaves her mark on program

By Randy Whalen
Correspondent

Laila Barakat entered her freshman year of high school basketball with a plan.

She left as one of the most accomplished and successful players in Stagg girls basketball history.

“Coming in my freshman year, I knew what goals I wanted to achieve,” said Barakat, who was a four-year varsity player for the Chargers. “Setting goals for myself got my confidence up and I was able to obtain them.”

Stagg girls basketball coach Bill Turner followed Barakat even before she became a Charger. He certainly appreciated that she talked to him about her goals from the get-go.

“There were some individual and team goals/records we discussed her freshman year, and she wanted to strive for them,” Turner said. “First was to win a conference championship, then achieve the most wins in a season. She also wanted to break the assist records, score over 1,000 points and be selected to the All-State team.

“She and her teammates did a great job of stepping up to those challenges, working hard, providing leadership, and accomplishing both those team and individual goals.”

When all was said and done, Barakat had etched her name into the Chargers record book.

Last season, Stagg was co-champion in the Red Division of the SouthWest Suburban Conference. Barakat had a career-high 32 points, including six 3-pointers, in a 60-50 win over Lincoln-Way Central on Feb. 3 in New Lenox. The victory earned the Chargers a share of the SouthWest Suburban Conference Red crown, their first league title since 2013.

“That (win over Central) was one of my highlights,” Barakat said. “It was also on my best friend and teammate’s, Gail Korbitz, birthday. There was just something in the air and it was amazing.”

The Chargers finished with 23 wins in both Barakat’s freshman season of 2018-19 and in 2021-22. That tied the 2002-03 team for most victories in program history.

She set out to be the all-time career assists leader at Stagg and accomplished it, dishing out 410.

Barakat is also the school’s second all-time leading scorer with 1,237 points and, despite being a point 5-foot-4 point guard, she grabbed 519 rebounds. She recorded 275 steals, and tied the single-season steals record with 96 in 2019-20. She was also adept at taking charges, with 33 of them.

In her senior season, she averaged 14.4 points per game, 5.1 rebounds, 5 assists and 2.9 steals. She made 42 3-pointers and shot 63.6% from the free-throw line and took 17 charges. Her efforts helped the Chargers to win 18-of-19 games following a 5-7 start.

She was an SWSC Red All-Conference selection and was nominated for conference Player of the Year. She was a three-time All-Tournament team member at the Hillcrest Holiday Classic, and achieved her goal by being named an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Class 4A All-State-Special Mention selection.

Two of Barakat’s best memories from her final high school season included scoring her 1,000th point during a home win over Richards on Jan. 8. That took her by surprise.

“I made a free throw,” she recalled of the moment. “I didn’t know that was it and the team started celebrating. It was a shocking moment, but it was great.”

Another was the regional championship game, a 66-52 loss to Marist on Feb. 17.

“Even though we lost, it was such a great atmosphere,” she said. “The stands were packed with family, students and teachers.”

Barakat, who will major in nursing in college, has not decided where she will go to school. In the mix have been University of Illinois-Chicago, Saint Xavier, North Central, North Park, Carthage, Millikin and Benedictine.

“I’m leaning on going to UIC and walking on there,” she said. “But I might start to at Moraine Valley. Colleges are still contacting me.

“All the places are really good. but I’m really picky and want to make the right decision.”

The program she chooses will get who Turner called “a fierce competitor and five-tool player.”.

“She ends her career at Stagg as one of the best all-around players here,” he added. “I am thankful to have had the opportunity to be her coach for the past four years. A great player, but an even better person.”

Area Sports Roundup: Lightning strikes at Shepard

Harper Noren of the Illinois Lightning Track Club shows her form in the long jump event Saturday as Shepard. Photo by Jeff Vorva

By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

There was a lot of rain and a little bit of thunder at the Illinois Lightning Track and Field Club’s open track meet, which was held at Shepard on June 25.

The meet was open to everyone, from children as young as 4 (one 3-year-old also participated) to adults. More than 100 boys, girls, men and women ran, jumped or threw.

“This is an event that we want to bring in people of all ages,” said longtime Shepard girls track coach Scot Rybarczyk, who is also the Lightning’s head coach.

The Lighting is a new club team based in Palos Heights. It was founded by former Astros track athlete Kiki Boyd and features 55 athletes.

Runners get ready to open the 100-meter dash on the sound of the starter’s gun on a rainy morning at the Lightning meet in Palos Heights. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Some of the coaches on the staff boast impressive credentials. They include former Bloom coach Lonelle Poole, retired Thornton and Rich Township coach Jimmy Daniels, sprinting coach Jasmine Daniels, Shepard throwing coach Clint Connelly, Eisenhower girls coach Tony Sosnowsiki, Bremen coach Bill Griffin, Reavis throwing coach Jeff Kreil, and Shepard graduates Kathy Mydra and Rainah Folk.

Among the Shepard alums who competed included Jamil Mashni, one of just four Astros to medal in the IHSA state meet, taking ninth in the shot put in 2010. He tried his luck in the shot put and discus.

Jamil Mashni, 30 and a Shepard grad who was all-state in the shot put, competes in the discus on Saturday at the Lightning meet. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Mashni, 30, said he threw over 50 feet in the shot in the rain on June 25, not far off of his 55-2.25 that he heaved as an athlete at SIU-Edwardsville. The mortgage loan originator at Rocket Mortgage was happy to see an event like this take place.

“I came out here and broke 50, man — that’s cool,” he said. “It’s been nine years since I held a shot like that.”

“This was awesome. I wish there were a few more faces of people that I graduated with, but it’s still a great turnout and I’m seeing a lot of familiar faces.”

The meet drew athletes and teams from a variety of places including Rush Athletics of Plainfield, the Chicago Thunder Track Club and the University of Chicago Track Club.

Rybarczyk said there will be another meet at Shepard on July 23, and he is hoping for triple the teams and athletes.

Evergreen Park’s Blake Tully, 3, had to be helped in the 55-meter dash by her mother, Hillary on Saturday. Hillary is an assistant track coach at Shepard. Photo by Jeff Vorva

 

Excitement in Omaha

Former Brother Rice baseball star Kendall Pettis is a member of Oklahoma’s baseball team, which finished second at the NCAA Men’s College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.

He played in all five World Series games and collected two hits, drove in a run and scored twice.

On the season, the sophomore hit .259, scored 45 runs and drove in 27.

Orland Park native and former Marist standout Jack Brannigan was also in Omaha for three World Series games with Notre Dame and had two hits. For the season, he hit .291 with 12 homers and 46 RBI. He was also 2-2 on the mound, with a 7.36 ERA and a pair of saves.

Another Brother Rice alum who had some baseball excitement in Omaha was Michael Massey, who plays for the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers. He cracked a home run June 23 in a 5-3 home victory over Columbus.

Massey, who opened the season on the Kansas City Royals’ Double-A Northwest Arkansas squad, was called up to Triple-A in mid-June.

 

Fun in Springfield

The Chicago Wolves beat Springfield (Mass.) 4-0 in Game 5 on the road at the MassMutual Center to win the Calder Cup championship on June 25. It’s the fifth championship in club history.

Orland Park native David Gust scored one of the goals in the championship game.

In his second season with the Wolves, Gust had 16 goals and 20 assists.

Amina Qureshi of Shepard lands during the pole vault event at the Lightning track meet. Photo by Jeff Vorva

World Wiffle Ball Championship returning to south suburbs

The 43rd World Wiffle Ball Championship is returning to Memorial Park in south suburban Midlothian on July 16-17.

“We’re excited to gear up for this year’s Championship at Memorial Park in Midlothian. We can’t wait to see old and new Wifflers alike this summer come together to beat some plastic,” said Mike Baniak, Commissioner of the World Wiffle Ball Championship.

Registration is now open for the 2022 event at https://worldwiffleball.org/entry/. Players of all ages are eligible to comprise teams of four or five players. The registration fee is $149 and includes a WWBC T-shirt for each rostered player.

Each team will play four round-robin games on Saturday, July 16. Qualifying teams will then play in a single-elimination tournament on Sunday, July 17.

More than 50 teams competed in the 2021 World Wiffle Ball Championship, with players from nine different states participating. Proceeds from the 2022 championship will benefit South Suburban Humane Society.

Since 2018, over $10,000 has been raised by the event to help animals in need.

“We are delighted to welcome the World Wiffle Ball Championship back to the Chicago Southland,” said Jim Garrett, President/CEO of the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau. “This is such a fun event, not only for players, but for the fans as well!”

For complete rules and more information, visit WorldWiffleBall.org.

Pro Soccer Report: Kowalksi, Pugh score for Red Stars in draw at KC

Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

The Chicago Red Stars suffered a big blow on defense when defender Kayla Sharples was ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL.

Sharples’ replacement in the starting lineup on June 18 was Amanda Kowalski. The Arlington Heights native decided to add some offense to her game, as her header in the 53rd minute — followed by Mallory Pugh’s sixth goal of the season six minutes later — helped the Red Stars forge a 2-2 draw with the Kansas City current at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Kowalski was signed after defender Tierra Davidson sustained a season-ending injury, and she has picked up some playing time. Now, it appears she will be a defensive mainstay in the lineup alongside Orland Park native Tatumn Milazzo and Zoe Morse in Sharples’ absence.

“The toughest thing about coming in with a circumstance like that is that you don’t want to move past the fact that your teammate just had a horrible injury, but you have to put it in the back of your mind and try to forget about it,” Kowalski said. “The hardest part about coming in was having my emotions take a back seat and trying to stay as level-headed as possible.

“That helped us get a good result.”

Sharples sustained her injury during 20th minute of the Red Stars’ match against the Orlando Pride at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview on June 12.

She was a key member of the Red Stars’ backline this season – playing every minute this season until the injury.

The Red Stars hope the defensive injuries won’t hurt the team too much down the stretch. Despite have a three-match scoreless streak snapped against Kansas City, Red Stars coach Chris Petrucelli said the defense played well.

Morse praised Kowalski’s play.

“We had no doubts that Amanda could step in and play the role,” she said. “We have all the trust in the world in Amanda. It honestly wasn’t that big of a change for us. We had our game plan.”

The Red Stars (4-1-4 16 points) are in third place in the NWSL and are unbeaten in their last seven matches. They are tied with Portland with 16 points — two points behind San Diego — but are behind in the standings because of goal differential.

 

Coming up

With international breaks and World Cup qualifying, the Stars’ workload gets lighter in the coming weeks.

The visit Gotham on July 2 in a month that features just four games. Compare that with a recent stretch in which they had to soldier through five games in 16 days in late May and early June.

The next SeatGeek Stadium appearance will be July 10 against North Carolina.

 

Tie for II

The Chicago Fire II picked up a point over the weekend, getting one with a 1-1 road tie against the Philadelphia Union II, but lost the opportunity for another point with a 3-0 shootout loss.

Omari Glasgow, who returned after playing with a national team in Guyana, scored his third goal of the season in the 49th minute to even the MLS Next Pro game.

The Fire (2-6-4, 11 points) recovered from a 5-0 loss to St. Louis CITY2 on June 11 to pick up the point.

“The team responded well,” Fire coach Ludovic Taillander said. “We also have to see that from one game to another there was a chance for change. We had a lot of players who played today and started today who weren’t on the field last week and didn’t experience the big loss.”

The Fire hosts the New England Revolution II at 4 p.m. Sunday at SeatGeek Stadium.

 

Mexican matches

While the Red Stars and Fire II were out of town, SeatGeek Stadium hosted a couple of games that drew huge crowds.

Atlas beat Chivas 1-0 on Saturday in the Pretemporada MX 2022 Clásico Tapatío.

On Sunday at the Clásico Capitalano, Pumas beat America, 3-1, in front of a sellout crowd. SeatGeek has a 20,000 capacity for soccer matches.

Area Sports Roundup: Troy Grevengoed leaving Richards to coach volleyball at Chicago Christian

By Jeff Vorva
Staff Writer

As the girls volleyball coach at Richards, Troy Grevengoed coached against Chicago Christian when two of his daughters played there.

He has also watched his daughters from the stands as a fan.

Now, he enters a third phase.

Grevengoed is the new girls volleyball coach at the Palos Heights private school. He replaces Karen Van Assen, who left the position to spend more time with her family after a 2021 season in which the Knights took third in the state in Class 2A.

Grevengoed’s oldest daughter, Logan, graduated from that team with more than 1,000 career kills. Also gone is libero Olivia Ingelse, but plenty of talent is scheduled to return to the Knights in 2022, including Delanie Grevengoed, Nikki Swiney, Keely Colyer, Melanie Gonzalez and Josie Triezenberg.

Troy Grevengoed, who won more than 300 matches as the longtime boys and girls volleyball coach at Richards and also coached the Michio club team, is ready to roll.

“I’m not so much worried about the pressure, it’s just learning a new environment,” he said. “I’ve been very comfortable at Richards. I’ve coached there for 20 years and that’s kind of what I know.

“The cool thing is that Chicago Christian is wrapped up in that culture of winning and I’m excited to serve that community. I have a lot of support.”

The Knights have one of the top programs in the area with five state trophies, including a Class 2A state title in 2010.

Grevengoed is a 1994 graduate of Chicago Christian, where he played basketball, soccer, tennis and golf. He shot up from 5-foot-10 his junior year of high school to 6-foot-5 by the start of college, and played club volleyball at Trinity Christian College. He’s been hooked on the sport ever since.

He has his children hooked as well. Logan is heading to Western Kentucky, Delanie has verbally committed to Appalachian State and Chase is a sophomore at Chicago Christian. Quinn is an eighth grader at Calvin Christian.

Grevengoed said he enjoys coaching his girls.

“It’s pretty seamless most of the time,” he said. “There are times when we have to work through some stuff, but it’s never a challenge that’s tougher than coaching someone else’s kids.

“It’s probably tougher on them than it is on me. They have a dad who can always give them more feedback and give them more criticism.”

Hannah Kilbaine of SXU was named CCAC Player of the Year in women’s golf. Photo courtesy of Saint Xavier University Department of Athletics

Kilbane killin’ it

Saint Xavier University sophomore Hannah Kilbane, a Sandburg graduate, was named the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference women’s golf Player of the Year on June 14.

She and Emily Hunt, a sophomore from Texas, were named All-CCAC first team. It is the second consecutive year that Hunt and Kilbane were first-team All-CCAC. Kilbane was named the CCAC Freshman of the Year last year and is the first SXU golfer to win Player of the Year since former NAIA All-American Taylor Thompson won the award in 2014.

“I was fortunate to come in with these quality kids,” first-year women’s golf coach Alan Lynn said. “The kids put in the work in the classroom and on the golf course. It’s good to see them recognized.”

Kilbane participated in three tournaments and one match play event during the 2021-22 season. She had two second place finishes, including finishing as the runner-up at the CCAC Championship after winning the event in 2021.

Kilbane recorded her lowest round of the season with a 74 on day two of the CCAC Cup in October. In six rounds, Kilbane averaged a score of 77.5.

 

Sandburg stars

A pair of two-sport athletes were honored by Sandburg.

Cross country and track star Declan Tunney and basketball and soccer star Erin O’Connor were named the school’s Senior Athletes of the Year.

 

Eagles return to nest

On June 13, Sandburg hosted a girls basketball summer shootout with Naperville North, Schaumburg and Yorkville.

It was no coincidence these three programs were the ones battling it out.

Naperville North coach Erin (Catel) Colletti, Schaumburg coach Jacqi (Storm) Strauch and Yorkville coach Kim Wensits are not only former Eagles basketball players, they were former teammates.

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