Look of a leader

  • Written by Ken Karrson

Spartans blast Mustangs to remain in first

  Looks again proved to be deceiving.
  After Evergreen Park sprang a 6-2 surprise on Oak Lawn last Monday and ran its win streak to seven, the Mustangs were optimistic about their chances for a sweep of their two-game set with the Spartans. Evergreen would be at home for Tuesday’s rematch, it would have its No. 1 pitcher available and, of course, it still had plenty of momentum on its side.
  “Everything was kind of going into, ‘We should be able to get these guys again,’” Mustangs coach Mark Smyth said. “We had our ace [Kyle Venhuizen] going and I thought we kind of had the book on how to pitch to their hitters after Monday.”
  What Evergreen didn’t have, however, was Venhuizen at his peak. The Mustangs have leaned heavily on their senior thus far, so much so that Smyth admitted to “running his pitch count pretty high.”
  “We’ve been depending on him a lot,” Smyth said, “and unfortunately, he didn’t have it here. Give [Oak Lawn] credit — he fell behind and had to put [pitches] in the zone, and they hit them.”
  Indeed, the Spartans did, well enough to pile up 11 second-inning runs and turn the South Suburban Conference Red encounter into a rout. Bob Kametas’ three-run homer and double and Marcin Krzysiak’s two-run dinger were the most telling blows administered during the uprising, and Oak Lawn rode those to a 15-4 victory in five frames that assured it of remaining in first place within the SSC Red.
  The Spartans entered the current week with a 10-4 conference ledger. Reavis had the same amount of defeats, but three fewer wins. Shepard was one behind in the loss column, while both Evergreen and Richards were two in arrears.
  “It seems like every week I can look at a game and say, ‘This was a huge win,’” Oak Lawn coach Bill Gerny said. “Every week, we have a game that puts our standing in the conference on the brink, and it seems like every game is high pressure.
  “[But] I think our kids are getting used to it a little bit and it’s nice to see [positive] results, especially so quickly. It’s great to be in this position, where we control our own destiny.”
  Billy Thome and Matt Witkowski both contributed two-run singles to the Spartans’ huge inning, but there’s little question Kametas was Oak Lawn’s man of the hour. Gerny praised the senior both for his statistical presence and his emotional one.
  “He was pumped up for the game,” Gerny said. “After he hit his homer, he said, ‘Do I have to do all this by myself?’ Everybody on the bench got angry and fired up, and it was impressive.
  “I told them, ‘Just let me know what gets you mad and I’ll do it to you.’”
  The Spartans’ scoring barrage allowed Gerny to lift Kametas from the mound and save him for Thursday’s SSC crossover contest with Bremen. Mitch Swatek threw the final four innings and met up with only minimal resistance.
  The Mustangs’ best showing was in the fourth frame, when Sean Miller slammed a three-run homer. Dan Duh singled in Evergreen’s initial marker two innings before that, but the hosts finished with only six hits.
  “I was surprised by that,” Smyth said of the Mustangs’ relative shutdown on offense. “But [the divisional race] is still pretty darn close and we still have an outside chance.”
  Evergreen put itself in a contending position by posting a triumph over Oak Lawn on Monday behind a complete-game pitching effort from Frank Meisl, who limited the Spartans to four hits and upped his record to 4-2.
  “He’s been a really bright spot,” Smyth said of Meisl. “He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he has a good mound presence and he mixes up speeds well. He kept his pitch count to a minimum.”
  “We couldn’t do anything with what he was throwing,” Gerny said.
  Oak Lawn (11-9, 10-4) tallied once in the fourth and again in the sixth, with Brandon Quillin supplying the two RBI on a sacrifice fly and double, respectively. The Spartans threatened to do more harm, but Meisl was able to work his way out of danger.
  “We had one inning that got sloppy and it could have gotten ugly for him,” Smyth said. “But he regained his composure and gutted it out at the end.”
  The Mustangs (10-11, 7-6) established some breathing room for themselves in their last at-bat, when they tallied three times. Highlighting the seventh-inning spurt were doubles by Duh (two RBI) and Mark Martin. An Oak Lawn error led to another run.
  Duh also singled home a teammate in the fourth, while Miller followed up hits by Mike Reuter and Duh in the sixth with an RBI single. Miller went 3-for-4 in the contest, but Smyth is also excited about seeing Duh begin to flourish.
  “Duh is starting to get hot and swing the bat like we knew he could,” Smyth said. “[Several] guys are coming through with the big hits and being patient at the plate, so hopefully we’re turning the corner and getting consistent offensively.”
  Two SSC Red clashes with Eisenhower and a conference crossover game against Lemont were on tap for Evergreen this week.
Oak Lawn 3
Bremen 2
  Kametas and Matt Dunne teamed up on the hill to stop the Braves on three hits and pave the way for an important Spartans win last Thursday. Between them, Oak Lawn’s two hurlers struck out four, and they managed to overcome three bases-on-balls and three hit batsmen that benefited Bremen.
  The Spartans and Braves were locked in a 2-all tie from the second inning through the fifth. Finally, Witkowski pushed Oak Lawn in front with his sacrifice fly in the sixth. He had brought in one of the Spartans’ earlier runs in the same manner and Thome also drilled an RBI single in the second.
Oak Lawn 13
Hillcrest 1
  The Hawks weren’t expected to pose a threat to the Spartans’ well-being last Wednesday, and the pitching trio of Ray Walker, Lee Baxa and Chris Donato made sure of that by joining forces on a one-hitter and fanning nine.
  “We were not putting too much stress on our fielders,” Gerny said.
  Hillcrest scraped together a run in the fourth, but by that time it was hopelessly buried. Oak Lawn saw to that by scoring in all five frames it batted, including five times in the fifth. Among the hitting heroes were Kametas (two-run homer, RBI double), Dunne (RBI double), Quillin (RBI double) and Krzysiak (RBI single).
  Gerny is especially pleased to see Kametas emerging as a force at the plate as his senior season heads toward the finish line.
  “He was struggling a little bit at the plate,” Gerny said. “We said, ‘It’s time for you to step,’ and he stepped up.”
  Pivotal conference games with Shepard and Oak Forest awaited the Spartans this week.
Evergreen Park 001 101 3 - 6
Oak Lawn 000 101 0 - 2
Evergreen Park 2B: Duh 2, Martin, Miller. RBI: Duh 3, Miller. WP: Meisl (4-2).
Oak Lawn 2B: Quillin. RBI: Quillin 2. LP: Dunne (4-3).
Oak Lawn 0(11)4 00 - 15
Evergreen Park 010 30 -  4
Oak Lawn 2B: Kametas. HR: Kametas, Krzysiak. RBI: Kametas 3, Krzysiak 2, Thome 2, Witkowski 2. WP: Swatek (2-2).
Evergreen Park 2B: Reuter. HR: Miller. RBI: Miller 3, Duh. LP: Venhuizen (2-3).
Oak Lawn 020 001 0 - 3
Bremen 020 000 0 - 2
Oak Lawn RBI: Witkowski 2, Thome. WP: Kametas (4-1).
Oak Lawn 212 35 - 13
Hillcrest 000 10 -  1
Oak Lawn 2B: Dunne, Kametas, Quillin. HR: Kametas. RBI: Kametas 3, Dunne, Krzysiak, Quillin. WP: Walker (1-0).


EP-OL3-COLORPhoto by Jason Maholy: Evergreen Park first baseman Kyle Venhuizen stretches for the throw from across the diamond during last week’s game versus Oak Lawn.



 EP-OL1Photo by Jason Maholy: Evergreen Park’s Mark Martin drives a pitch into left field during last week’s game against Oak Lawn.


EP-OL2Photo by Jason Maholy: Evergreen Park’s Mark Martin slides safely into third base as Oak Lawn’s Bob Kametas awaits the late throw during last week’s game between the South Suburban Conference Red rivals.