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Savoring a split decision

  • Written by Ken Karrson

Fabrizio’s boost gives RedHawks win over JCA

  Who says coaches can’t really impact games?
  Typically, that’s probably true, but there are exceptions. One of those occurred Saturday in Game 2 of an East Suburban Catholic Conference doubleheader between Marist and Joliet Catholic Academy.
  The Hilltoppers, who had taken the twinbill opener by a 6-1 score, were leading 2-0 in the second contest when the RedHawks appeared to break through in the sixth inning on John Carmody’s sacrifice fly. But another Marist runner was ruled to have departed second base prematurely and then called out when JCA threw back to the bag.
  Having already seen his club denied an earlier run when a RedHawk was called out at home despite kicking the ball loose from the catcher’s glove, Marist coach Tom Fabrizio wasn’t about to let this latest controversy pass without a confrontation.
  After telling the umpire involved with the play, “You cost us two runs,” and then getting him to confer with the other ump, Fabrizio was rewarded for his diligence. Carmody’s fly ball was indeed a run producer, and the RedHawks went on to tie the game on Barrett Callaghan’s single.
  Then in the seventh, sophomore Tommy Finwall broke the deadlock with a homer. Pitcher Rich Kairis protected that newly gained lead in the bottom of the stanza, and Marist was able to earn a split for the day with a 3-2 victory.

 “That was probably as good as we could have hoped for,” Fabrizio said. “Sweeping a team like that is almost impossible with our offense the way it is.”
  Although the RedHawks’ bats exploded in a Thursday rout of Oak Lawn, Marist’s attack remains a work in progress. Against the Hilltoppers, for example, the RedHawks (8-8, 1-1) broke even despite registering just seven hits on the day.
  Only two of those were delivered in Game 1 as Marist was chasing five runs by the third inning. Knowing a comeback would be something of a long shot, Fabrizio removed Kairis from the hill in order to save him for use in the second encounter, a strategy that obviously proved quite sound.
  Matt McKenzie gave the RedHawks four frames of effective relief as he scattered four hits and only allowed one more run, and that performance seemed to energize Marist hurlers for the next contest. Kyle Barrett preceded Kairis to the mound in Game 2, and together they held the Hilltoppers to six hits.
  “Kairis was lights out,” Fabrizio said. “He gave up two hits in 3 2/3 innings.”
  Carmody (double) Eric Hanson (double) and Pat Meehan also hit safely for the RedHawks in the second contest. Kairis and Blake Bieniek accounted for Marist’s hits in the opener.

Marist 10
Oak Lawn 0
  Hanson and Kairis both hit safely twice in the first inning of last Thursday’s matchup with the Spartans and the RedHawks as a team stroked three two-out hits to extend a rally that didn’t conclude until Marist had amassed nine runs.
  “Those guys were just keyed in and they looked very comfortable at the plate,” Oak Lawn coach Bill Gerny said of the RedHawks. “They were just hitting the ball on the nose. [Spartans pitcher Matt] Witkowski came off the mound and looked shell-shocked.”
  Hanson included a two-run double among his hits and Kairis belted an RBI triple. Another influential figure for Marist at the outset was Meehan, who supplied a two-run single to the onslaught.
  “We strung together some hits, which is something we haven’t done very often,” Fabrizio said. “We’ve seen [pitchers] like that before and done nothing, so it was nice to see. It was our best game of the year and something we needed to build a little confidence.”
  When asked to explain his guys’ turnaround, Fabrizio really couldn’t.
  “I want to say it was luck,” he joked. “Maybe with a few days in a row where we got outside, we were able to get in a sequence and build on some things.”
  Whatever the reason, the RedHawks’ initial outburst was more than enough cushion for pitcher Robert Hovey, who scattered five hits and benefited from double plays turned behind him in the first, third and fifth stanzas. Fabrizio praised the senior for his ability to “mix up speeds and throw a lot of strikes.”
  Oak Lawn hurlers settled down as the game progressed, but the Spartans’ lack of offensive punch meant no comeback was in store for them.
  “We didn’t come out with a lot of energy, [but] take away the first inning and we didn’t play that bad,” Gerny said. “I don’t know if [Marist] got complacent, but they didn’t do much [after that].”
  Justin Swatek’s double was Oak Lawn’s lone extra-base hit in the game.

Reavis 12-3
Oak Lawn 11-7
  The Spartans looked to be in a similar predicament last Wednesday, when the Rams used multiple-run scoring in the second, third and fourth frames to construct a 10-3 advantage. What bothered Gerny most about Reavis’ getaway was that it was aided immeasurably by a porous defense that committed a dozen errors.
  The mistake-riddled display made life miserable for starting pitcher Matt Dunne, who was charged with only one earned run during his mound stint.
  “We rely on him so much and lean on him so heavily, and we have done nothing to support him,” Gerny said. “It was getting to the point where, as a coaching staff, we huddled and we were praying every time the ball was hit. All of a sudden, we forgot how to play defense.”
  And just as quickly — and perhaps inexplicably — Oak Lawn found a remedy on the offensive side as it wiped out its entire deficit during a single plate appearance.
  “It seemed like the guys kind of got frustrated about playing from behind [so often],” Gerny said. “I think they’re [actually] beyond the point of frustration and getting angry, which is good. That’s a place they need to be.”
  The Spartans’ half of the fourth inning began with hits from Swatek (double), Joe Dodaro and Liam Blake (RBI single). Following a sacrifice bunt, Brandon Quillin kept things rolling with a two-run single.
  Before the Rams were able to retire the side, Oak Lawn also tallied on Mitch Swatek’s single, Witkowski’s two-run double and Justin Swatek’s single.
  “We haven’t had guys getting consecutive hits like that,” Gerny said. “Just to come out and do that against a lefty who shut us down before was big.
  “[Before that happened], it was one of those things where I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Where have I gone wrong? Did I overestimate the kind of talent we have?’ But when we came back and started hitting the ball, I knew we’d be all right.”
  Reavis regained an edge with a two-run homer in the fifth, the only hit freshman Chad Cwik gave up in three innings of relief. That blow, though, was critical as the Spartans could tally just once in response.
  Jake Slusinski’s single brought Oak Lawn within one in the seventh, but two groundouts left him stranded and allowed the Rams to escape with a victory. Quillin (two-run single) and Mitch Swatek (groundout) drove in the Spartans’ first three markers of the day.
***
  Oak Lawn’s South Suburban Conference Red rematch with Reavis on Friday began in an ominous manner, as the Rams tallied an unearned run in the bottom of the first. While the lead was certainly not insurmountable, the way Reavis scored was what Gerny found disconcerting.
  “We’re back in Burbank, we’ve already played poorly against Reavis and St. Laurence there, so you start to think it’s déjà vu,” he said. “You’re waiting for it to unfold like it’s [the movie] ‘Groundhog Day.’”
  But there would be no repeat of Wednesday’s setback. Instead, the Spartans (3-12, 1-4) seized control by plating four runs in the third inning and three more in the fourth. Ryne Melnik (two-run single), Dunne (double) and Dodaro supplied the RBI hits in the earlier uprising, while Mitch and Justin Swatek brought home the later runs with singles.
  Mitch Swatek was also in fine form on the hill, where he went the distance to give Oak Lawn a much-needed lift. While the defending SSC Red titlists are in chase mode, 13 conference games remain on the docket, so some shifting can still take place.
  But Gerny admits it won’t be easy to remain a contender over the long haul.
  “The way Richards is running away with the conference, it puts added pressure on every game,” he said. “All the [other] teams on our side are packed together, so we’ve definitely got our work cut out for us.”

Rich Central 6
Oak Lawn 4
  The Spartans appeared ready to close out their week on a high note, but they couldn’t hold on to a 4-3 lead they carried into the fifth inning on Saturday versus the Olympians. Three walks and a triple enabled Rich Central to pull ahead for keeps in that stanza.
  Olympians miscues were responsible for all of Oak Lawn’s scoring. The Spartans took advantage of a wild pitch in the third inning and capitalized on each of three passed balls in the fifth. Their own defense, meanwhile, provided a huge highlight when it converted a triple play in the fourth.

Statistics

Oak Lawn 000 00 — 0
Marist 910 0x — 10
Oak Lawn 2B: J. Swatek. LP: Witkowski (0-2).
Marist 2B: Hanson. 3B: Kairis. RBI: Hanson 2, Meehan 2, Kairis. WP: Hovey (2-0).

JCA 203 000 1 — 6
Marist 000 100 0 — 1
Marist LP: Kairis (2-3).

Marist 000 002 1 — 3
JCA 000 200 0 — 2
Marist 2B: Carmody, Hanson. HR: Finwall. RBI: Callaghan, Carmody, Finwall. WP: Kairis (3-3).

Reavis 043 320 0 — 12
Oak Lawn 120 700 1 — 11
Oak Lawn 2B: J. Swatek, Witkowski. RBI: Quillin 4, M. Swatek 2, Witkowski 2, Blake, J. Swatek. LP: Cwik (1-2).

Oak Lawn 004 300 0 — 7
Reavis 101 010 0 — 3
Oak Lawn 2B: Dunne. RBI: Melnik 2, M. Swatek 2, Dodaro, Dunne, J. Swatek. WP: M. Swatek (1-2).

Oak Lawn 001 300 0 — 4
Rich Central 030 030 x — 6
Oak Lawn LP: Montez (0-1).