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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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High School Football: Rice tops Marist as both powers eye playoffs

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

The buzz and postgame emotions from Brother Rice’s 40-21 victory over Marist on Friday was abbreviated.

Because the heralded game was played on the final regular season weekend of the year, these area and state powers and bitter rivals quickly turned their attention to the playoff pairings announcements, which came less than 24 hours after completion of the programs’ annual regular-season matchup.

The situation is similar to that in college basketball when the Big Ten Conference wraps up its league tournament with a championship game, which swiftly becomes an afterthought when a few hours later the March Madness brackets are announced on Selection Sunday.

The IHSA criteria for seeding teams has remained the same over the years. The overall record takes precedence, followed by the amount of victories a team’s opponents have.

Brother Rice and Marist have been in the penthouse of the Class 7A and 8A Associated Press rankings all year, but did not get great seeds.

Marist (6-3, losses to Loyola, Mount Carmel and Brother Rice) is seeded 18th in Class 8A and will visit 15th-seeded Glenbard East (7-2) at 7 p.m. Friday.

Brother Rice (7-2, losses to Loyola and Joliet Catholic, the top overall seeds in classes 8A and 4A, respectively) picked up the No. 9 seed in Class 7A and will host Wheaton Warrenville South (5-4).

Glenbard East has beaten only two teams with winning records and has losses to unbeaten South Elgin (41-7) and one-loss Glenbard South (40-20).

Marist’s history shows that a sub-par seeding doesn’t mean much. The RedHawks entered the playoffs 5-4 in both 2015 and 2019, and in the first case advanced to the Class 8A state title game and in the second went to the semifinals.

“Realistically, getting in is the key,” Marist coach Ron Dawczak said. “Once you are in, anything can happen.”

Brother Rice is eyeing a state championship in retiring coach Brian Badke’s last year. The Crusaders’ first playoff opponent, Wheaton Warrenville South, has brought home seven state championship trophies to the school, the last coming in 2010.

The Tigers needed a Week 9 win to make it to the playoffs and pulled off a tight 10-7 victory over Glenbard North, which came into the game with a 6-2 record.

Marist’s Jaylen Johnson tumbles in the end zone after helping to put his team ahead, 14-0 in what turned out to be a loss to Brother Rice Friday. Photo by Jeff Vorva

As for the Brother Rice/Marist tilt to end the regular season?

An estimated crowd of 4,000 saw Marist take a 14-0 lead before Brother Rice scored 40 straight points. Marist tacked on a touchdown at the end.

Crusaders quarterback Jack Lausch threw for 162 yards and touchdowns to Da’Kobie Wordlaw and Ricky Taylor, and he ran for 175 yards and scored three times. His 70-yard run in the first play of the second half helped put the Crusaders ahead, 23-14, and took some steam out of the RedHawks.

Interceptions by Dameon Hall and Sean Kinard in the third quarter also helped pave the way for Rice, which gave up 187 yards in the first quarter and 181 the rest of the way.

“We had a talk, and it was just up from there,” Hall said. “We stayed together. We made plays. Everyone did their job. Nobody was selfish and we came up with the victory.”

Marist quarterback and Coastal Carolina recruit Dontrell Jackson Jr. threw for 210 yards. Alonzo Manning III and Jaylen Johnson each had first-quarter touchdown runs.

Brother Rice’s Aaron Vaughn is used as a decoy for a Jack Lausch run in Friday’s victory against Marist. Photo by Jeff Vorva

Last home game a winner for Red Stars

By Alison Moran

What a way to end a season at home. It was a perfect night for a cool game of soccer, with temperatures in the upper 50s and no rain dampening the field.

In front of 4,488 of the Red Stars’ faithful at SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, the Chicago Red Stars defeated KC 2-1 on Oct. 16. With the three points earned for the win, the Red Stars are now a virtual lock to make the NWSL playoffs.

And they were helped by KC themselves. In the 34th minute, KC’s Tierna Davidson’s shot took multiple deflections, but an errant header from Kristin Edmonds sent the ball into the net. Unfortunately, it was their own net, and the Red Stars were first on the board. The goal was credited to Edmonds.

This wasn’t the first time this season that own goals have helped the Red Stars — this is the fifth time that own goals have contributed to the Red Stars ‘overall goal total this season.

But three minutes later, the momentum shifted to KC, as Hallie Mace got a header on the ball off of a corner to equalize the game.

In the second half, the momentum stayed with KC until the 50th minute, when Kealia Watt, received a pass from Mal Pugh’s breakaway, setting up forward Makenzy Doniak to slot the ball into the net to regain the lead for the Red Stars.

“I think we’re peaking at just the right time,” said defender Arin Wright, who eclipsed the 10,000-minute mark in her NWSL career last weekend. Wright, who is playing in her first full season since the birth of her son, was inducted into the University of Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame earlier this year and played her first games as a professional in her home state of Kentucky during the inaugural Women’s Cup.

As eager as they are to find out if they are making the playoffs, the Red Stars will have to wait. Following the upcoming international break, the Red Stars will close out the regular season against the Orlando Pride at Exploria Stadium on Friday, October 29.

High School Football: Mustangs buck Spartans into offseason

By Steve Metsch
Correspondent

Coming into the regular-season finale, Evergreen Park knew Oak Lawn needed a victory to possibly make the playoffs.

The Mustangs, most likely already in the tournament but with a chance to improve their seed, had other plans.

“Not on our watch,” senior wide receiver Elijah Matthews said after Evergreen Park defeated the Spartans, 35-13, on Oct. 22 in Oak Lawn.

The Mustangs (6-3, 4-2 South Suburban Red) earned a No. 8 seed in the IHSA Class 5A playoffs and will host Sycamore (6-3) in a first-round game. Oak Lawn (4-5, 2-4) missed the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season.

“We’re a pretty dangerous team,” said Evergreen Park coach Jerry Verde. “We can make some plays.”

Matthews had five receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns. Verde called him “a special player.”

Mustangs senior running backs James Williams and Michael Torres combined to rush for 264 yards and three touchdowns. Williams carried 13 times for 168 yards and two touchdowns. Torres added 96 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries.

Sophomore quarterback Deijon Feliciano finished 9-of-12 for 119 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Oak Lawn, which showed steady improvement as the season progressed under first-year head coach Ryan Pattison, led 7-0 after senior Gavin Butler ran 13 yards for a score with 4:38 left in the first quarter.

The teams traded possessions, but a bad snap on a punt from Oak Lawn’s 38-yard line gave the Mustangs the ball at the 15. Williams ran in on the next play for a 7-7 tie.

The ensuing kickoff was returned 90 yards for an apparent touchdown by speedy Spartans junior Ayham Salah. But a holding call wiped out the play.

“Those killed us,” Pattison said of the bad snap and penalty.

Oak Lawn punter Eduardo Chiquito runs with the ball after a bad snap in the Spartans’ loss to Evergreen Park. Photo by Steve Metsch

With 6 seconds left in the first half and a 2nd-and-3 from Oak Lawn’s 40 yard line, Mustang sophomore quarterback Deijon Feliciano lofted a pass to Matthews near the 10 yard line. The 6-foot receiver jumped behind the 5-foot-9 Butler, caught the ball, and ran in for a 14-7 halftime lead.

“That was a heck of a catch,” Pattison said. “That’s a huge blow.”

Verde wasn’t surprised; Matthews and Feliciano practice the play daily.

“He’s been a leader all year,” Verde said of Matthews. “He proves it on both sides of the ball.”

Matthews intercepted a pass in the game’s waning moments.

Evergreen Park outscored Oak Lawn 21-6 in the second half.

While Pattison is disappointed the Spartans did not make the playoffs, he’s already looking forward to next season.

“We have a bunch of kids who care,” he said. “We have a ton of kids playing football for the first time.”

Butler, who plays basketball for Oak Lawn, decided to try football after off-season chats with Spartans receiver Adam Alcantara.

“We challenged ourselves to see if we could turn this into a winning program,” Butler said. “I’m proud to be part of this team.”

Another basketball player, senior Gabriel Duer, had last played football his freshman year. Duer’s play at quarterback and linebacker contributed significantly to the Spartans’ success this season.

In the finale, he ran for 111 yards and was 4-of-11 for 80 yards with a touchdown pass to junior John McGlynn

“Coach Pattison has this team looking good for many years to come,” Duer said.

High School Sports Postseason Roundup: Maia, oh, Maia — Sandburg soph finishes in top 8

By Jeff Vorva
Correspondent

It was cloudy.

It was windy.

It was rainy.

Many people might describe it as a lousy day, but Sandburg sophomore tennis star Maia Loureiro wasn’t complaining.

She was playing tennis.

In the state tournament.

She opened her state career on that crummy Oct. 21 day at Barrington High School with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Jacobs’ Kylie Cohn. She would end up with a top-12 finish, becoming just the fifth singles player in The Regional-Reporter history to finish that high at state, and the first since 2009.

COVID-19 helped wipe out the state portion of the IHSA state meet in 2020, so the heralded player had to wait a year.

Loureiro couldn’t wait for the state meet this year.

“It feels special and amazing,” she said. “Last year, we weren’t able to come here. It’s really nice to finally be here. It’s exciting.”

She has enjoyed success on the United States Tennis Association circuit, but she relished the opportunity to play at Sandburg and follow in the footsteps of her sister, Anna.

“For sure — high school season for me is all about team bonding and having fun,” Loureiro said. “Now we’re getting into more serious stuff so that’s even more exciting because I love competition.”

Loureiro was seeded in the top four and after her first victory added triumphs over Lincoln-Way Central’s Kara Rimkunas (6-0, 6-0) and Libertyville’s Lena Dogadalski (6-3, 6-4) before dropping a quarterfinal match with a three-set loss to Plainfield North’s Jessica Kovalcik (2-6, 6-4, 6-3) and a consolation quarterfinal loss to Hinsdale South’s Chase Metcalf (6-3, 6-4) to finish in the top 12. The state meet does not feature place matches beyond the fifth-place match.

Sandburg’s doubles team of Samantha Pagnucci-Alex Petcu won its first match against Jessica Hernandez-Goncalves-Sruthi Sundar of Hoffman Estates (6-3, 6-0), but lost the next two matches to bow out.

The Sandburg duo of Josie Canellis-Neela Browne finished 0-2.

Richards’ Meghan McSweeney finished 1-2.

Stagg’s Vicky Lipinski-Izabella Slezakova, Marist’s Elena Ruzevich and Molly Malloy and Mother McAuley’s Mairead Doran-Maddy McNamara all finished 0-2.

In Class 1A, St. Laurence’s Ruby Olmos finished 0-2.

Chicago Christian’s singles players Iljana Maier and Jessica Vollan and the doubles team of Meghan Tiemens-Emma Tiemens all went 0-2.

Boys XC regionals
Sandburg, which is ranked first in the state in Class 3A by two media services, won its own regional at Midlothian Meadows Oct. 23 with 27 points. Stagg finished fourth and Shepard sixth as both advanced to the Hinsdale Central Sectional this Saturday at Katherine Legge Park in Hinsdale.

Brock Rice finished second with a time of 14:46 seconds for the Eagles, seven seconds ahead of teammate Sean Marquardt. Luke Barham led Stagg with a 12th place finish and Santana Garcia led Shepard with a 22nd-place showing.

Marist won its own Class 2A meet, also at Midlothian Meadows, with 40 points while Richards, Brother Rice, St. Laurence and Evergreen Park followed and will all head to the Fenton Sectional this Saturday.

Jake Phillips of Marist was the sectional champion with a 15:26.20 and teammate Andrew Kerlin took second with a time of 15:42.60. Owen Forberg led Richards with a third-place finish, Rocco Cipolla led Evergreen Park with a sixth-place finish, Charlie Walsh led Brother Rice with a ninth-place showing and Allan Potter finished 22nd to lead St. Laurence.

Girls XC regionals
Marist was a daily-double winner as the RedHawks won both the boys and girls Class 2A regional titles. Emma Karczewski won with a time of 19:15.14.

St. Laurence and Evergreen Park finished second and third to qualify for the Fenton Sectional. Jadie Chavez led St. Laurence with a seventh-place finish and Ariana Martinez finished eighth to lead Evergreen Park.

Sandburg finished second, Mother McAuley third and Stagg fourth at the Class 3A Sandburg Regional.

Sophomore Ava Giblin led Sandburg with a third-place finish in 18:15.29. Lillian Coakley led McAuley with 12th-place finish and Iza Lepkowski led Stagg with a 14th-place finish.

Chicago Christian took second at the Bishop McNamara Class 1A Regional as Anna Enderle took third with a 19:26. The Knights head to the Lisle Sectional at Community Park in Lisle.

Golf State Finals
Catching up from the weekend of Oct. 8-9, St. Laurence’s Missy McGuire tied for 29th in the state in the IHSA Class 1A division with a two-round total of 163. Evergreen Park’s Charley Burns missed the cut with a 90 for one round.

In Class 2A, Sandburg’s Jillian Cosler tied for 38th with a 159 and teammate Katie Misko finished 52nd with a 163.

In Class 2A boys, Mount Carmel’s Michael O’Keefe tied for 61st with a 158 while Sandburg’s Caleb Negley (82) and Brandan Joy (85) missed the cut.

 

QUEENS OF THE QUARTERFINALS

Area girls singles tennis players who have reached the IHSA state quarterfinals.

Year Player School Finish

1980 Lisa Lebold McAuley 5th

1997 Tanja Sukovic Shepard 5th

1998 Rachal Dybas Stagg 4th

1999 Rachal Dybas Stagg 7th-8th

2009 Melissa Kopinski Stagg 4th

2021 Maia Loureiro Sandburg Top 12

Note: Consolation matches for seventh place are not contested

Coyne Schofield to be honored as IBAM’s Person of the Year

By Jeff Vorva

Palos Heights hockey legend Kendall Coyne Schofield is picking up a huge award Friday night and it doesn’t have much to do with hockey.

Schofield was named the Irish Books, Art and Music Person of the Year and will be honored at the group’s 13th Awards Gala Oct. 22 at the American Irish Center in Chicago.

Coyne Schofield and her husband, NFL offensive lineman Michael Schofield, have used their success and fame to form the Schofield Family Foundation, which helps the military, first responders, families, youth sports plus education and research.

“Our committee receives names who would make good candidates for Person of the Year, and we pick from there,” said Cliff Carlson, a member of the IBAM committee. “They have to be Irish, anywhere globally, and the fact that she formed a charity to help others was a big part of her being considered.”

Coyne is a two-time Olympic medal winner for the United States. She helped the team to a silver medal in 2014 and a gold in 2018.

The 29-year-old is not slowing down as she was named captain of the International Ice Hockey Federation women’s World Championship in August, where the United States lost to host Canada, 3-2 in the finals. She had two goals and three assists in seven games.

The Sandburg graduate in 2020 became the first female player development coach in the Blackhawks organization.

Michael Schofield has had an interesting year. The 30-year-old started the NFL preseason with Baltimore but was cut and latched on with the Los Angeles Chargers, a team he played with from 2017-2019. He is first on the depth chart at right guard for the Chargers, who won four of their first six games.

He was a starting lineman and won a Super Bowl ring with Denver in 2016.

Evergreen Park welcomes own fields of dreams and honors Sexton

By Jeff Vorva

Brand new fields and a retired mayor were the stars of the show on Oct. 14.

Evergreen Park High School had a grand opening of its new turfed baseball and softball fields. The fields were used in late spring, but this event was to celebrate the fields and show them off to dignitaries and guests, including former White Sox star Ron Kittle.

District 231 Supt. Tom O’Malley also turned the event into a celebration of former Evergreen Park Mayor Jim Sexton and is naming the driveway area behind the school and in front of the fields Honorary James Sexton Drive.

“Mayor Sexton has been an important part of our school community in a number of ways,” O’Malley said. “He has guided us on construction projects and has been a driving force.

“I remember sitting in his office and he said, ‘Tom, if you do this right, you are going to hit a home run not only for you but for the whole community.’ He has always been there for us when called on.”

Sexton said he was humbled by the honor and remembered the time when O’Malley hit the former mayor with a slew of ideas – including creating an indoor sports complex out of the former Evergreen Bath and Tennis Club.

“I thought he was nuts,” Sexton joked. “But he’s a lot younger than I am and he got these done. It shows his dedication to this community and his dedication to the future.”

Former mayor Jim Sexton cuts the ribbon for the new baseball and softball fields at Evergreen Park High School on Thursday.

O’Malley said they are “one of-a-kind, state-of-the-art” fields with whistles and bells that include large press boxes, dugout and locker room areas. There are stadium seats that came straight from the Louisville Bats minor league baseball stadium.

The field can absorb rain and there likely will be fewer rainout games at the school.

Jim Froslid, an official with Brock USA, which helped build these fields, bragged these are two of the best fields in the country.

“Most of those fields are just the infield are just turfed in the infield and here, there is also turf on the outfield,” Froslid said. “The mindset is that in addition to softball and baseball, they have all other field sports where they are playing and training in the outfield. It’s not being done in other parts of the country. They are utilizing every inch of this field.”

Former White Sox great Ron Kittle, left, talks with Jim Froslid, who helped build the Evergreen Park High School baseball and softball fields.

He added that safety is a plus for the fields.

“We built them in mind with the athlete first,” Froslid said. When you are on this field, you will notice there is no crumb rubber in the field. It is wood. It absorbs rubber and it cools the field. Under there is a shock pad that if you fall on it, it absorbs impact.”

Current Mayor Kelly Burke was impressed. She had a sneak peek before the grand opening.

“Like most people, it was always driving past it on 99th Street and wondered ‘what the heck is going on in there?’” she said. “Now that I got to see it, I was wowed by this facility. It’s just fantastic. This is something the whole community can take advantage of.”

Kittle said he didn’t start playing on a turf field until he reached the Class AAA level in the pros.

“It’s a beautiful facility and the school system and the town is lucky to have something like this,” he said.

Evergreen Park Mayor Kelly Burke gives a speech to the crowd at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new baseball and softball fields at EPHS.

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