Hair today, fans gone tomorrow?

  • Written by Ken Karrson




HEADLINE: Hair today, fans gone tomorrow?


            People are fascinated by hair.

            Maybe it’s just an American thing, but there’s no denying the importance of it here in the U.S. The availability of hair-care products is seemingly infinite, gazillions of dollars are spent on them and countless folks devote far more time to working on their coifs than working at their jobs.

            Sometimes fame can be gained from going hairless simply because such a look runs counter to what most of us prefer and thus stands out. Would Michael Jordan have become a household name or Mr. Clean a notable household cleaner without his bald pate as a form of advertisement? Quite possibly not.

            Hair can be unwelcome too if it’s found anywhere but on one’s head, unless we're referring to a man’s chest. Over the years that’s often been thought as a sign of virility, although once those hairs turn gray all bets are off in that department.

            But a woman typically wants hair solely on her head and neither sex is keen about having any that turns two eyebrows into one. And who among us desires even a few strands of hair substituting for parsley as plate garnish at a fine-dining establishment?

            Apparently there’s also one guy who’d prefer to see it removed from the faces of NHL players in the spring. It’d be easy to dismiss this man’s dislike by labeling him some sort of weirdo except for one thing: He’s a very influential weirdo.

            Actually, Mark Lazarus’ feeling about bearded hockey players is quite easy to understand. As chairman of NBC Sports, he has a vested interest in players’ recognition level and, by extension, their potential marketability.

            Lazarus’ network dropped $2 billion -- that’s billion with a “b” -- on the NHL for the sport’s broadcasting rights over a 10-year span. Considering hockey is still seen as a regional sport in some ways, the Blackhawks’ hold over Chicagoans notwithstanding, it’s not at all surprising Lazarus and whoever else has a financial stake in the NHL would want to put the organization’s best face forward.

            But playoff beards have been a tradition for over three decades, dating back to the New York Islanders teams of the early 1980s that won four straight Stanley Cups. At least that’s where credit is given -- or the blame if you’re Mr. Lazarus.

            “Let’s get their faces out there,” Lazarus told one major news outlet. “Let’s talk about how young and attractive they are. I know it’s a tradition and superstition, but I think (the beards) hurt recognition.”

            Maybe, but try telling that to James Harden. The Houston Rockets player was runner-up for the NBA’s MVP award this season, but no one knows him solely because of that; in fact there are probably a number of people who had no idea of how the MVP voting unfolded until it was just mentioned here.

            No, what makes Harden eminently recognizable is a beard that would fit right in with those worn by colonialists. It’s become as much of a trademark for him as the chrome dome was for Jordan and Clean.

            There’s no case of mistaken identity whenever one sees a painting of Jesus, and that pudgy guy who spends his Decembers mingling with reindeer and elves has gotten pretty good mileage out of a face filled of whiskers. So too did our nation's 16th president.

            Some may say Jesus, Saint Nick and Abe Lincoln are exceptions, that beards are the domain of the unkempt and connote an overall unsavory quality. According to Lazarus, hockey players “have a great opportunity with more endorsements or simply more recognition with fans saying, ‘That guy looks like the kid next door,' which many of these guys do.”

            But what if the kid next door chooses to look the way former major-leaguer Johnny Damon did before joining the New York Yankees? With his long hair and shaggy beard, Damon resembled the kind of guy whose mug shot might have appeared on “America’s Most Wanted.”

            At least that’s what we’re told. Somehow I don’t think the Boston Red Sox cared much about Damon's grooming habits while he was helping them win the 2004 World Series. Neither did long-suffering Red Sox fans whose wait for a championship was almost as inexhaustible as that of Cubs fans.

            Although Mark Lazarus isn’t trying to be a stick in the mud, he’s falling into that same trap as so many before him: thinking clean-shaven equates to clean living. It sometimes does, but as many debutantes could verify the biggest wolves are often the ones with every hair in place and none of it on their faces.

            Now let me make clear that Lazarus is not suggesting hockey players are suddenly bad guys because they’re sporting facial foliage. His contention is that they’ll be more appealing to a greater number of fans minus the beards.

            But it really shouldn’t matter because the game ought to be enough of a draw on its own merits. Playoff hockey is, in this humble opinion, the most exciting happening in sports.

How can it not be? Heck, those of us watching are barely able to keep our balance while emptying the contents of an ice tray in our kitchen let alone while skating on a surface covered with ice. These guys are magicians who skate fast enough to get ticketed in a school zone and are also the toughest sons of guns around.

So if hockey somehow fails to connect with enough of an audience to satisfy NBC honchos, I highly doubt being able to see Jonathan Toews or Patrick Kane in a less-hirsute state is going to make that much of a difference.

And let’s not forget that even with freshly shaved mugs, hockey players still won’t be all that visible thanks to the helmets and face shields they're required to wear. Lazarus isn’t suggesting that safety gets compromised in the name of promotion, so aren’t we really back at Square 1 regardless of how close athletes get to their razors?

Truth is, broaching a subject like beards and attaching any degree of importance to them seems rather silly. You obviously don’t see the NBA worrying about such trivial matters.

Why just the other day I noticed an important story about LeBron James, one that frankly I was surprised to see because I thought everything that could have possibly been written about him already had been. But I learned that James does not use dye on what little hair he has, a declaration that came straight from his barber’s mouth.

Boy, I can rest easy now knowing the truth about LeBron’s head. And now you can officially call me -- and everyone else who perused the article -- hair-brained.



Black Monday

  • Written by Ken Karrson



Black Monday

Three local teams blanked in regional final


By Ken Karrson

Sports Editor


The nation’s workforce tends to hate Mondays.

After results were in for some rain-delayed regional finals, a sizable group of baseball players echoed that same sentiment.

The start of June meant the end of the season for three local teams, and making the defeats sting a little more was the fact that each club was shut out in its last contest of the spring. Perhaps the most surprising outcome was Brother Rice’s 5-0 loss to Marian Catholic in the Class 4A Shepard Regional championship game.

Also falling short were Stagg, which lost 4-0 to Lincoln-Way North in the latter’s regional, and Sandburg, which got rolled 11-0 by host Providence Catholic. The Celtics went on to beat Marist 3-2 in nine innings last Thursday to earn a spot opposite Marian, a 5-2 victory over the Phoenix, in the Marist Sectional title game.

The Spartans, an afterthought of sorts during the East Suburban Catholic Conference season, began their playoff journey with a 1-0 win over Shepard. Behind pitcher Mark DiLuia Marian’s good fortune continued versus the Crusaders, who managed just two hits -- singles by Andrew Dyke and Ryan King -- off the hurler.

“We didn’t play sloppy; they just beat us,” Rice coach John McCarthy said. “They took it to us pretty good.

“You’ve got to credit Marian. They earned it. We couldn’t change momentum -- that was the biggest thing.”

The Spartans tallied once in their initial at-bat, but what really put Rice (26-11) in a bind was Marian’s three-run third that featured RBI from DiLuia (single) and Carlo Falconi (sacrifice fly). Also part of the rally was Lavezz Middleton’s sacrifice bunt that wasn’t fielded cleanly and gave the Spartans a second baserunner with nobody out.

“That was kind of a backbreaker,” McCarthy said of Marian’s uprising. “They were being aggressive, playing confident and things didn’t go our way. I was disappointed for our guys, but unfortunately that’s the way it bounces.”

The Crusaders’ scoring chances were few. They did load the bases in the third, but a popout extinguished that threat. Rice received eight free passes from DiLuia and had one batter hit by a pitch, but it also went down 10 times on strikeouts.

Ryan Kutt was the losing pitcher although he was charged with only two earned runs as the Crusaders finished the day with four errors. Middleton had two hits for Marian, Falconi drove in two runs and Dan Gutierrez (one hit) scored twice.

“It’s tough to take positives from the end of the season,” McCarthy said. “It’s the toughest day of the year for coaches [because] every year you have a unique set of guys. I was very pleased with this group and we had a blast.

“We had a great season. You always think you could have gone further [and] I’d like to have a little more playoff success, but we’re doing the right things and it’s going to break [right] for us one day.”

            Providence     11

            Sandburg       0

The Celtics seized command against the Eagles (18-14) right away last Monday as they struck for five first-inning runs. Leadoff hitter Mike Madej’s solo blast on an 0-2 pitch got it rolling for Providence and Jimmy Jeffries added a three-run dinger before the frame was out.

“The game started off as bad as it could have [for us],” Sandburg assistant coach Chuck Peters said. “There’s not really a way to sugarcoat it -- we just didn’t play well and we got thoroughly beat up. We made mistakes and got handled pretty good.”

While Peters said the Eagles didn’t show any signs of quit, the uphill climb was too steep -- and it grew steadily worse as Celtics pitcher Brent Villasenor never allowed Sandburg to get its offensive footing while his own team kept scoring. Only Dan Dziadkowiec and Ben Kociper had much success against Villasenor, who tossed a four-hitter.

“I think our team got deflated, which is a little disappointing, but [Providence was] the better team and they took it to us,” Peters said. “We hit a couple balls hard, but it was probably the worst playoff game we’ve ever had. Hopefully that doesn’t happen again.”

And the best course of action in Peters’ opinion is to simply forge ahead.

“We just have to get back at it next year,” he said.

            L-W North     4

            Stagg   0

Chargers coach Matt O’Neill figured his squad would see Phoenix ace Kyle Ostrowski last Monday, and the Purdue University-bound hurler demonstrated his Division I-caliber abilities by mowing down 12 Stagg batters on third strikes and surrendering just three hits over 6 2/3 innings. Reliever Liam Jenkins finished off the Chargers (18-17) without incident.

Stagg pitcher Nick Gerzon wasn’t too shabby himself as he limited Lincoln-Way North to only four hits, but two of those -- Josh Mutter’s third-inning single and Ben Troike’s fourth-inning safety -- produced RBI. Pat Troike also knocked in a run during the latter frame with his groundout.

Max Downs delivered two of the Chargers’ hits off Ostrowski, including a double. His single in the second and an ensuing hit batsman gave Stagg two runners in scoring position with one out, but a popout and flyout quashed the would-be rally.

The Chargers also left the bags filled in the seventh and stranded a total of 11 men.


Catching up on lots of lost time

  • Written by Ken Karrson



HEADLINE: Catching up on lots of lost time

            Now that a certain columnist has awakened from a winter slumber -- who are we kidding; the spring and fall snoozes got in the way too -- it’s time to address a few things that have occurred since last we met.

            The most recent bit of big news was Bruce Jenner deciding that he no longer liked being best known as an Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon. Of course, to younger folks his athletic past gets overshadowed by his association with the wacky Kardashian cabal, which may explain his own erratic behavior over the past couple years that culminated with his announcement that he is going to become a woman.

            None of this really mattered in a sporting sense until one group with way too much time on its hands opted to draft a petition urging the International Olympic Committee to strip Jenner of his 1976 medal. Come on, the man/woman has already stripped himself/herself of all dignity in the eyes of many, so let’s back off, OK?

            Amazingly, the IOC for once acted with a smidgen of rationality and said it wouldn’t even entertain the idea. Good because no matter how one might view Jenner’s recent actions, he earned that medal fair and square.

            The argument the petitioners offered was that men and women aren’t supposed to compete in each other’s events, but Jenner was unquestionably male when he participated nearly 40 years ago. Besides, how would being a woman have helped him in that circumstance? It would, in fact, have hindered him.

            So even if he now wants to have it melted down and made into a broach or pair of earrings, Jenner deserves to keep his medal.

            Now as for the whole sex-change thing, I have just one question: Why is he being feted for his courage? Aren’t we going overboard here? Far better examples of courageous individuals in athletics would be college basketball player Lauren Hill, who inspired teammates with her battle against cancer before passing away during this past season; former Kansas City Chief Joe Delaney, who drowned while trying to save three kids who’d fallen into a pond; or baseball Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente, who died in a plane crash while en route with supplies for people living in an impoverished part of the world.

            Those are examples of heroism; a guy unearthing his inner female doesn’t quite fall into that same category. I hope we can all agree on that.


            On a lighter note, you may recall several months ago when Prince William of England and his wife visited the U.S. and took in an NBA game while here. Normally that wouldn’t have been a big deal to anyone but the entertainment-world paparazzi, who salivate at the thought of being in the presence of royalty, either real or theatrical.

            However, a photo that made the Internet rounds was one William and Kate had taken with LeBron James, who had his arm around Kate when the picture was taken. His hand was in plain sight, so that was no problem; what did cause a bit of a stir among the super-sensitive crowd was that James had the temerity to touch royalty.

            Hey, everyone around the NBA refers to him as “King James.” Now, I’m no scholar when it comes to understanding regal hierarchy, but I do know that whenever I play poker king trumps all else, including queen. And since William still has to answer to his grandmother … well let’s just give LeBron a pass.

            The only thing that would have made it unpleasant was if James had worked up a sweat beforehand by taping a commercial or calling a press conference to announce his career plans for 2016, but that apparently wasn’t the case.

            An interesting point in all this is I don’t recall William getting his royal drawers in a bunch over the whole thing. If he had, we would have heard about it and, of course, he would have settled things mano a mano.

            Polo ponies at 20 paces perhaps?


            Remember the story about a Dallas Cowboys player who went to extremes to beat a kid in a video football game?

            Orlando Scandrick was visiting a children’s hospital, which was a very cool thing to do. What was downright cold, however, was the way he resorted to employing trick plays while playing Madden Football with one of the patients.

On the one hand Scandrick’s win-at-all-costs attitude is admirable. Too often we don’t see such determination being exhibited by today’s athletes, who seem content to cash their gargantuan paychecks that are attached to their guaranteed contracts and aren’t bothered at all by a game’s outcome, so Scandrick is a breath of fresh air in that regard.

Making it stale is the fact he didn’t adopt that same mindset on a Sunday against a Green Bay Packer or Washington Redskin but saved it up for use against a helpless kid. When this story first came out, some people weighed in with the idea that Scandrick was teaching something every youngster should realize: Life isn’t fair and things don’t always work out the way we would like.

I assume, though, that a kid in a children’s hospital has already figured that out for himself.


OK, where is it? Where is the mad rush to soccer everyone said Americans were finally going to make in the aftermath of last summer’s World Cup?

To paraphrase an old Phil Collins tune, I guess they missed again.

Don’t say you weren’t warned by the realists. While soccer may be the world’s favorite sport, it’s a world the majority of native-born U.S. citizens simply refuse to enter when so many alternatives exist.

Most of us are perfectly content to let soccer have its place in the athletic sphere and won’t harass fans of it, assuming we don’t get harangued ourselves. But that’s what happens every time a U.S. team steps on the world stage -- we’re informed in a most direct manner that this is the time soccer will catch on in a massive way.

A year ago I tried again to understand what the temporary hoopla was all about, but soccer just didn’t grab me. Don’t hate me, soccer fans, but I felt the entire undertaking was tedious and I grew weary watching it.

Gee, no wonder I dozed off for nine months.


Eagles hold fourth at state

  • Written by Ken Karrson



Eagles hold fourth at state

Win ensures volleyball team a trophy


By Anthony Nasella


            When Sandburg advanced to the boys; volleyball state finals last weekend in Hoffman Estates, it had only one goal: to bring the championship trophy back to Orland Park.

            The Eagles had to settle for fourth place, however. Vernon Hills ended their title bid -- not to mention a 28-match win streak -- in the semifinals by squeezing out a 25-23, 20-25, 25-23 victory on Saturday. Both physically and emotionally drained after that encounter and then forced to wait a long time before taking the court again, Sandburg fell to Addison Trail in just two sets, 25-18, 25-23 in the third-place match.

            The Eagles (36-6) beat New Trier 30-28, 18-25, 25-18 in Friday's first quarterfinal after advancing to state on the heels of a 25-15, 25-20 vanquishing of Marist last Tuesday in the Shepard Sectional championship match.

            “We brought home hardware and it’s always nice to do that,” Sandburg coach Sean Airola said. “It just wasn’t the trophy we wanted. It was all or nothing for these guys.

            "We played a long hard match against New Trier, and the next day after we lost to Vernon Hills the players had a four-hour gap of sitting around. [So] it was tough for them to play in that third-place [match].”

            The Eagles' loss to Vernon Hills prevented them from getting another shot at Glenbard West, the eventual state champ. Sandburg had won a head-to-head encounter with Glenbard at Brother Rice's Smack Attack, the most notable triumph during the Eagles' lengthy win streak that had begun April 20 and one of only two losses suffered by the champs this season.

            Paul Chmura and Jake Hanes had 12 and 10 kills, respectively, versus Vernon Hills, but the duo was also guilty of 11 hitting errors between them. Also chipping in along the net were Tajai Lang (seven kills) and T.J. Vorva (five).

            "This is the state tournament and we weren't going to down easy," Chmura said.

            Sandburg never find a rhythm against Addison Trail as it put down just 19 kills and posted a .180 attack percentage. Things had been much better opposite New Trier as Chmura (17 kills), Hanes (14), Vorva (six), Grant Burden (39 assists), Lang (five blocks) and Colin Ensalaco (12 digs) all lent a hand.

            Hanes also had an embarrassing moment in the latter match when a ball he had thrown in the air to serve wound up hitting him on the head when it descended

            "That was the worst toss of my life,” said Hanes, whose seven kills had spearheaded the Eagles' sectional-clinching victory over Marist. “I was thinking I was going to make a foot fault and I was thinking about jumping, but I just let it drop and it hit my head."

            Despite coming up short of their goal, the Eagles drew nothing but praise from Airola, who watched them get on a major roll after going 8-4 over their first dozen matches.

            “We started out a little rough but got better as the season went on," he said. "We played one of the toughest schedules in the state and we proved to be one of the best teams in the state. We showed a lot of heart [and] we did a lot of great things this year."

                        GIRLS' SOCCER

            After finishing with a 7-8-3 record in 2014, Stagg put together a stellar season in 2015 as it tripled its victory total and earned the program's first sectional title since 2006 and just its second overall.

            But the Chargers' magical campaign came to an end at the Class 3A Normal Supersectional, where Collinsville shut them out 3-0. In the process, Stagg also saw a 12-match unbeaten streak get halted.

            “The hardest part about Tuesday was saying goodbye to a really good group of girls who were so committed and so driven,” Chargers coach Chris Campos said. “We lose some significant seniors, so the loss was definitely bittersweet. This season was a definite success for Stagg soccer.

            “We finished with the best record in Stagg history (21-4) and had the big winning streak before our final loss to a very good Collinsville team. We tried to put our best foot forward on Tuesday, but we just fell a little short.”

            To be sure, Stagg was in the hunt after 32 minutes as it was locked in a scoreless tie with Collinsville thanks to some stellar play by goalkeeper Claire Heneghan. However, Collinsville’s height and depth began to make a difference in the second half.

            The Chargers, who had recorded three straight shutouts heading into the supersectional, almost scored when Hannah Mussallem and Veronica Stafira paired up but Mussallem’s shot was stopped by the Collinsville keeper.

            “We had a so much support from the community and the school,” Campos said. “This season was an experience the girls will remember and carry with them for the rest of their lives.

            "We lost some great seniors like Allison Stefan, Hannah Mussallem and Claire Heneghan, but we have nine freshmen and bunch of juniors who got experience this year. So we’re definitely looking forward to the future and [will] try to get back to where we were and keep improving day by day the way this team did.”


Hosts have the most

  • Written by Ken Karrson


Class 4A St. Laurence Regional

Hosts have the most

Vikings slip past Spartans to win crown


By Ken Karrson

Sports Editor


Home-field advantage was exactly that for St. Laurence on Saturday -- barely.

Whatever edge the Vikings might have had as host of their own Class 4A regional was razor thin. In essence, they were 180 feet better than Oak Lawn.

That was the distance separating Spartan Ivan Georgelos from home plate in the seventh inning. After driving in Oak Lawn’s initial marker of the day with an infield hit, Georgelos eventually represented the tying run but got stranded at second.

As a result, St. Laurence emerged with a 3-2 triumph that netted it a sixth consecutive regional championship. The Vikings meet Chicago Catholic League Blue rival St. Rita today in a semifinal of the latter’s sectional.

The winner of that game will face off against either Mt. Carmel or Simeon on Saturday for the championship. And in St. Laurence coach Pete Lotus’ opinion, the Vikings’ narrow escape in the regional finale could prove beneficial as the going gets tougher.

“We didn’t put them away and we let them hang around,” he said of the Spartans, “but hopefully it’s good for us in a few ways. It shows us [that] when we have [scoring] opportunities we have to take advantage of them at this time of the season.

“And the silver lining was we faced a lot of adversity. Teams that can overcome that put themselves in a good position.”

The Vikings (23-11) certainly appeared to be in just such a place after only one inning. A few Oak Lawn bobbles contributed to a two-run St. Laurence rally that placed the Spartans in chase mode the entire day.

“Getting a run right away was big for us,” Lotus said. “At that point, even though they gave us a couple runs, I thought we did a good job.”

“I think our guys were a little nervous [at first],” Oak Lawn coach Bill Gerny said. “If we catch the ball, we’re getting out of there with no runs and it’s a whole new ballgame.”

The sluggish start was similar to the one that dogged the Spartans in a 2014 regional encounter with Mt. Carmel. In that earlier instance, things quickly spiraled out of control and Oak Lawn suffered a season-ending mercy-rule defeat.

Not so here. The Spartans (20-15) improved defensively after their initial miscues -- center fielder Bobby Beard stretched out to make a catch in the fourth inning that stranded a pair of Vikings on the bases and third baseman Joe Dodaro also made a diving play of his own that prevented St. Laurence from getting two runners in scoring position during another at-bat.

“Our guys battled right up to the last pitch,” Gerny said. “They didn’t back down from the challenge. They came out and competed the way the coaches hoped and thought they would.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our guys. I thought we played our best game of the season and did everything but outscore them.”

Jack Cavanaugh’s single upped the Vikings’ edge to 3-0, but that was to be the end of the pain inflicted upon Oak Lawn pitcher Boo Quillin, recently named the South Suburban Conference Red Player of the Year. The Spartans’ work in the field and some erratic baserunning by St. Laurence conspired to short-circuit one promising inning for the home team.

“That part of the game was frustrating, especially the way [Saturday] was with the weather,” Lotus said. “It rained the entire game, we had the tarp out about four times and we lost a little momentum. It got too close there at the end for sure.”

Vikings pitcher Frank Greco didn’t have to deal with many threats through the first six frames. John Roberts and Beard (double) both hit safely in the second, but a double play was sandwiched in between and a sixth-inning pickoff kept Oak Lawn from getting two runners on in that plate appearance.

Nevertheless, Gerny was satisfied with how his batters looked for the most part.

“We weren’t striking out a lot,” he said. “Our guys had good at-bats and were making solid contact.”

It finally paid off in the seventh as the Spartans did some noisemaking. Justin Swatek’s double opened the stanza, Beard got plunked by a pitch and a passed ball put them both in scoring position.

When Ryne Melnik also was hit with a pitch, Gerny was anticipating a big inning. But Lotus successfully argued that Melnik had initiated contact with the ball and the latter eventually struck out.

Gerny said “that changed the dynamic of the game,” but Georgelos’ hit and Matt Witkowski’s groundout brought Oak Lawn within one and set the stage for Quillin. Gerny felt the Spartans “couldn’t have scripted it any better,” but Vikings reliever Zach Erdman retired Quillin for the third out on a hard-hit grounder.

“Not many people were probably giving us much credit, but we’re a much better team [than in March]” Gerny said. “This was one of the most emotional games I’ve ever been a part of and I think our players became better people at dealing with life because of it.”

Lotus was understandably happy with his own guys too and hoped they appreciated their accomplishment.

“I don’t want them to take for granted winning a regional,” he said. “A lot of teams didn’t get the opportunity to do that. I’m really proud of how we stuck together through that bad week-and-a-half [in the early part of May] and stuff we haven’t been forced to deal with for a while.”

            St. Laurence  11

            Kenwood        1

Lotus’ biggest concern last Wednesday was how the Vikings would view the Broncos. Coming off a solid showing in the competitive Steve Bajenski Tournament against some familiar opponents, St. Laurence players could have easily overlooked their regional semifinal foe.

“I definitely worried about how our kids’ approach would be,” Lotus said. “Going from playing in that nice [Standard Bank] stadium with literally hundreds of people in it and a lot of excitement to our little field [was a big change].

“It was very easy to get up for those [Bajenski games], but we had no idea about Kenwood or who they played. We definitely didn’t want to be thinking ahead at all. Our focus was just to come out and play a really good game.”

That’s pretty much what the Vikings did, beginning with a three-run opening frame. They went on to score in four of their ensuing at-bats as well, two of which equaled the initial scoring output.

Cavanaugh paced the St. Laurence attack with a 3-for-3 performance that included four RBI. Also chipping in were Nick Verta (two hits, two RBI), Greco (RBI single, RBI groundout), Mike Finger (RBI double), Kevin Aderman (RBI single) and Tommy Farrell (double). Prospering behind all that offensive support was John Riordan, who scattered five hits and struck out that same number of Broncos.

“We played pretty well for the most part,” Lotus said.

            Oak Lawn      13

            Morton           4

Gerny had no complaints either about the Spartans’ display on Thursday. Oak Lawn removed all doubt as to the semifinal outcome by exploding for nine first-inning runs, an eruption greatly aided by seven Mustangs errors.

The Spartans also did their part as Roberts (two-run double), Georgelos (triple), Dodaro and Melnik all stroked RBI hits. Quillin and Witkowski both provided run-scoring singles in the next inning and Witkowski’s grounder plated Oak Lawn’s 13th tally in the fourth.

“It was nice because it took all the pressure off,” Gerny said of his team’s game-opening volley. “Being able to take care of a team early was good for our guys. It showed them how good they’ve become.”

Rodrigo Zavala was the pitcher of record for the Spartans, who gave Gerny his winningest season to date.

“This is a tough group to let go of,” he said of his seniors. “But there’s a lot to build on.”