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Road trip

  • Written by Ken Karrson

 

Road trip

Three local teams find success outside Illinois during spring break

 

By Ken Karrson

Sports Editor

 

Many college kids make Florida a spring-break destination.

High school baseball players from Marist, St. Laurence and Brother Rice also took road trips last week as school wasn’t in session following the Easter holiday. But instead of the Sunshine State, those athletes ventured elsewhere.

The RedHawks went to Myrtle Beach, S.C., the Vikings traveled to southern California and the Crusaders journeyed to Louisville, Ky. In addition to getting the chance to play several games, each team’s coach liked the intangibles associated with the excursion.

“It’s not all about the games,” Marist boss Kevin Sefcik said. “It’s the stuff you do along the way. I made sure I gave them their [free] time. We had a hotel right on the water and the kids stayed out of trouble.

“It was everything I could have asked for. It was a great trip.”

Making it even more so were five straight wins at the Mingo Bay Classic, where the RedHawks (7-1) were one of 28 clubs playing in the Class A division. They did not claim a championship but did wind up among the top eight finishers and received a plaque.

Neither St. Laurence nor Rice went unbeaten in its respective tournament, but the out-of-town experience was deemed equally satisfying by both programs.

“One of the more important benefits is the team building and camaraderie,” said Vikings coach Pete Lotus, whose squad was making its sixth consecutive spring trip but its first to California.

“Just being away is good and it seems guys were really looking forward to it.”

Crusaders leader John McCarthy echoed similar sentiments.

“The team-building part was huge,” he said. “I applaud coaches who do it because it’s a very rewarding experience. You remember some of the baseball stuff, but there is going to be a lifetime of memories from this trip.”

            MARIST

Sefcik admitted he "knew nothing about” the RedHawks’ foes in South Carolina before the tourney got underway, although he discovered later the “competition wasn’t world beaters.” Nevertheless, Sefcik still felt Marist played well overall.

And the outcomes proved it. The RedHawks capped their week with perhaps their finest performance to date as they shut out Waccamaw (S.C.) 10-0 behind Rich Kairis, who struck out five and walked one over four innings. For good measure the pitcher also contributed as a hitter as he went 4-for-4 with two runs scored.

Producing multiple-hit efforts as well were Jack Snyder (two hits, two RBI), Tyler Haizel (two hits, two runs, one RBI) and Jake Powers (two hits, one RBI). John Carmody doubled and knocked in a pair of runs while Brian Wood also finished with a hit and two RBI.

“They responded by making sure they were ready,” Sefcik said, referring to his players’ week-long approach to their activities. “We did everything well -- played good defense, ran the bases, pitched. [And] offensively we got way better.

“Once the season starts in baseball, practice stinks. You take [batting practice] before every game, so what do you work on? When you get to play every day, it’s awesome [because] it’s difficult trying to hit when you play one day, then you’re off for two or more.”

Sefcik thought Waccamaw wasn’t too bad a team. The fact Marist rolled over it led him to one conclusion.

“It just goes to show you baseball up here [in Illinois] is really good,” Sefcik said.

Helping to reinforce that idea was St. Rita, which also took part in the Myrtle Beach event. The Mustangs captured the overall championship.

                        ***

Before whitewashing Waccamaw, the RedHawks defeated Lake City (8-2), Cherry Hill East, N.J. (13-7), Cherokee N.J. (7-4) and Hammonton N.J. (7-4). The triumph over Cherokee was realized after Marist expunged an early 4-1 deficit.

“We stayed with it and just kept battling back,” Sefcik said. “I didn’t really know what to expect [from my players before the season] because I didn’t coach them last summer, but [comebacks have] happened twice already. We also did it against De La Salle.

“You can tell them anything you want, but it’s important that kids see [positive] results from what they’re doing.”

Snyder picked up the pitching win after throwing 5 1/3 stanzas of three-hit relief with five strikeouts. Keying the offense was Powers, who went 3-for-4 with two RBI.

Also involved were Zach Sefcik, Haizel and Kairis, all of whom stroked two hits. The younger Sefcik included a double among his and scored twice, Haizel tallied once and Kairis drove in a run.

                        ***

Pat Meehan notched Friday’s victory over Hammonton by working five innings on the mound and fanning seven. Kairis was credited with a save and also matched Haizel by going 3-for-4 at the plate.

Between them the two players accounted for six of the RedHawks’ runs, five of which they scored themselves. Kairis also had an RBI. Carmody registered three RBI while hitting safely once.

Kairis was the pitcher of record against Lake City last Monday as he held it to two hits over five innings. Carmody (two doubles, three RBI) and Wood (two hits, two RBI) were the principal figures on offense.

Grant Kenny (3-for-3 with a double, four runs, two RBI) and Kairis (two hits, including a double, three RBI) paved the way for Marist’s high-scoring win over Cherry Hills East.

Along with beginning East Suburban Catholic Conference play Saturday against Notre Dame, the RedHawks’ schedule this week featured matchups with once-defeated Sandburg and always-tough Mt. Carmel.

            ST. LAURENCE

The Vikings may be veterans when it comes to spring journeys, but their inaugural trip to California presented them with a couple of surprises, one being that a double-digit lead doesn’t automatically trigger a premature stoppage in play.

“We didn’t figure that out until the fourth inning [on Tuesday],” said Lotus, whose team hit Desert Christian with back-to-back five-spots to begin the contest. “We didn’t know there wasn’t a 10-run rule.”

He and St. Laurence also didn’t realize the Don Lugo Tournament would be played on four different high school fields rather than a centralized college or municipal-park site.

“That part I wasn’t too crazy about,” Lotus said. “We knew where our first game was [scheduled], but it was pretty random after that.”

Despite the oddities the Vikings (8-2) managed to go 3-1 and secure third place for themselves. After downing Desert Christian 14-5, things got tighter as St. Laurence slipped past Capistrano Valley 5-2 and lost 2-1 to San Dimas. Relegated to the third-place contest by that setback, the Vikings made the most of it by beating Linfield Christian 6-1.

The final encounter showed St. Laurence in peak offensive form as it smacked 10 hits and stole eight bases. Rich Lamb, Frank Greco and Nick Verta each swiped two bags, and the latter duo also collected three RBI between them. One of Verta’s came on a double.

Tommy Farrell (two hits, one RBI), Dan Cummings (two hits), Anthony Chimera (RBI single) and Zach Erdman were other notables for the Vikings, who scored twice in the first to establish an edge that was never lost. In addition to garnering an RBI, Erdman was the winning pitcher as he tossed three innings of hitless relief.

                        ***

The middle two games represented the sternest tests for St. Laurence. Lotus felt his guys “played one of our best games we’ve played this year” versus Capistrano Valley on Wednesday.

Certainly, Jimmy Burnette did his part as he allowed one hit through five frames while fanning seven. He was backed by good defense too as the Vikes’ lone hiccup was a first-inning error that got overshadowed by two ensuing double plays.

Capistrano Valley did go in front because of that St. Laurence miscue, but the locals bounced back with two runs in the second on Mike Finger’s double. He went deep in the sixth to highlight another two-run eruption, which also featured Chimera’s RBI single.

Anthony Rios provided the Vikings’ other RBI with his third-inning hit.

“They were a good team and it was a different kind of game,” Lotus said. “For the most part we’ve been ahead by a lot, so it was nice to see us in that [competitive] situation. That’s going to be more of the norm going forward instead of the other way.”

San Dimas was 20-0 entering Thursday’s clash with St. Laurence and considered one of the top programs in California, and while it got the better of the Vikings Lotus was satisfied overall. The only real trouble spot, in his opinion, was St. Laurence’s nine strikeouts.

Usually adept at putting bat on ball, the Vikings' high number of whiffs was the second such occurrence for them this spring. Lincoln-Way Central defeated St. Laurence earlier by fanning 10 batters.

“It’s a little concerning for us as coaches when we strike out nine and 10 times,” Lotus said. “I was very happy with how we played defensively and obviously the way Frank [Greco] pitched, but we have to do a better job of getting guys on base. We were not putting the ball in play and didn’t have a tremendous amount of opportunities to score.

“You can’t expect guys to [always] pitch like Frank did -- that’s difficult to do. He was outstanding and he deserved better.”

Greco was nicked for eight hits and walked two but never let San Dimas batters string much together. The California-based club did score once in the second inning, but a diving stop by Verta led to a putout at the plate and kept the two teams tied. The Vikings had tallied in the top of that same inning on an overthrow.

Their only other real scoring chance was in the fifth when they put a man on third with one out. However, the would-be rally died on a groundout and popout. San Dimas then pushed across the deciding marker in its half of the seventh.

“In terms of the teams [we played], it was pretty comparable to the other [spring-break] tournaments we’ve been in,” Lotus said.

                        ***

Lotus was happily surprised by St. Laurence’s rapid getaway against Desert Christian, seeing as how the game got underway at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday. The Vikings had arrived in southern California late Monday afternoon.

“You never know after a flight [how things will be],” Lotus said.

In case St. Laurence needed an adjustment period, Desert Christian unintentionally offered it by handing the Vikings all of their first-inning runs without benefit of a base hit. St. Laurence received four free passes, had two batters get hit by pitches and lifted a pair of sacrifice flies.

Chalking up RBI were Verta, Rios, Greco, Jimmy Burnette, Sean Burnette and Kevin Aderman.

“It was definitely weird,” said Lotus, who couldn’t recall ever scoring that many times without at least one hit as part of the rally.

Greco (two-run double), Aderman (sacrifice fly) and Jimmy Burnette (RBI single) also struck during the Vikings’ second-inning outbreak. Two errors and a base-on-balls were factored into the uprising as well.

Both Burnettes added RBI singles later on, as did Joe Madera, and Farrell had a sacrifice fly. St. Laurence stroked only eight hits but had 21 baserunners.

The Vikings began Chicago Catholic League crossover play this week.

            BROTHER RICE

Like their Catholic League counterparts, the Crusaders posted a 3-1 ledger away from home. It could have easily been a break-even venture, but Rice (11-3) staved off defeat last Tuesday in rather stunning fashion.

Matched up against a St. Xavier team ranked No. 3 in the state of Kentucky and No. 48 nationally, the Crusaders found themselves trailing 2-0 after six innings. Having mustered just two hits to that point, a comeback seemed a bit of a long shot.

But it was not impossible. Down to its last strike, Rice got a reprieve when Max Hughes singled. That came on the heels of two strikeouts, which had been preceded in the stanza by hits from Ryan King and Jake Ridgway.

Michael Massey and Danny Paluch both coaxed walks after Hughes’ hit, which lifted the Crusaders into a tie. Andrew Dyke then beat out an infield single on a ball that deflected off the pitcher’s glove to push his team in front.

Sophomore Jack Guzek saved the unexpected victory for starting pitcher Ryan Kutt. The two hurlers scattered five hits and struck out that same number of batters.

“In a new environment our guys were uncomfortable, but they had to rally together,” McCarthy said. “They gave it their very best all week and it was definitely a wonderful trip [because of that].

“We knew what we were getting into [with this tournament] -- we scheduled it for a reason. I honestly didn’t know if we were going to win a game, but the [main] goal was to try to come back as a [tight-knit] team. It was good to get to know each other better.

“I was very, very pleased with the week. It was so much fun.”

                        ***

Rice’s tourney opener was far less drama-filled, even though the Crusaders squared off against Eastern High School, another solid Kentucky program. Three runs in the second frame got Rice off and running to a 10-0 victory last Monday.

Mike Schalasky was the Crusaders’ hitting hero as he went 4-for-4 with two homers, a double and five RBI. Joe Preusser (two hits, one RBI), Massey (triple, RBI), Hughes (hit, RBI) and Kutt (hit, RBI) also chipped in to a 13-hit attack.

“Schalasky’s been absolutely fantastic,” McCarthy said. “He worked really, really hard in the offseason. That doesn’t guarantee anything -- sometimes you work your tail off and do everything you’re supposed to and don’t get rewarded for it -- but it’s worked out for him. We’re excited for him and obviously it helps out our team.”

Tom Przekwas notched his first pitching win after scattering eight hits over six innings.

                        ***

Christian Academy snapped a 4-all deadlock with a fifth-inning homer and that proved the difference last Wednesday as Rice got tagged with a 5-4 setback. The round-tripper was one of only two hits reliever Pat Smith surrendered in a 4 2/3-inning stint.

The Crusaders outhit Christian Academy 7-5. Massey and Schalasky evenly split four of the hits between them, one of the former’s going for two bases. He also scored once and knocked in a run.

Ridgway had Rice’s other RBI.

The Crusaders rebounded on Friday to get by Ballard 5-3 as Schalasky threw a five-hitter for six innings while raising his pitching ledger to 3-0. He whiffed four and walked just one.

Schalasky worked with a lead the entire day, thanks to doubles from Hughes and Dyke (RBI) that handed Rice a 1-0 advantage in the opening stanza. Massey’s double chased in two runs one inning later.

Ridgway’s sacrifice fly and a Ballard error delivered the remaining two tallies. Guzek earned his second save of the week by pitching a basically uneventful seventh.

“He’s a steady player, a guy that doesn’t let outside things bother him,” McCarthy said of Guzek, who is only a sophomore. “Having somebody at the back end of the bullpen you can count on is huge.”

McCarthy expressed his appreciation to parents and alumni who made the Crusaders’ trip possible and said his guys are better off because of it.

“We always want to challenge ourselves on the field,” he said. “We were able to get a lot of guys [playing] time and we feel like we’re prepared going into the Catholic League season.”

                        ***

Instead of resting upon their return home, the Crusaders got back into action versus Andrew on Saturday. They were not at their best, however, as evidenced by the 10 free passes issued to the Thunderbolts, which helped the latter gain an 8-5 win.

Schalasky was 3-for-4 and five players had RBI, but that got offset by Andrew’s trio of Tom Bushnell, Mike Carey and Ramon Padilla, each of whom drove in two runs. Bushnell also pocketed the pitching triumph

 

Defeat is no lost cause

  • Written by Ken Karrson

 

Defeat is no lost cause

RedHawks take positives from matchup with Celtics

 

By Ken Karrson

Sports Editor

 

This setback didn’t live down to its name. If anything, the loss provided a gain.

A couple of months from now Marist coach Kevin Sefcik probably won’t view a similar outcome in quite so favorable a light. However, it’s still early in his inaugural season so it’s safe to say this one was worthy of positive feedback.

That’s especially true since last Monday’s opponent, Providence Catholic, is the reigning state champion in Class 4A. And with proven pitcher Brent Villasenor on their side, the Celtics had a main ingredient for success.

They achieved it too thanks to Villasenor’s ability to handcuff RedHawks batters, but not before Marist hurler Rich Kairis showed he was every bit as deserving of praise for a job well done. In fact, had it not been for a slight relief breakdown the RedHawks and Providence might have gone at it for a long while.

But the Celtics benefited from a hit batsman on an 0-2 pitch, which loaded the bags in the sixth, and then a wild pitch that gave them the only run in a 1-0 final. Marist rebounded from that heartbreaker to beat De La Salle 8-7 on Tuesday after climbing out of a 4-0 first-inning hole, but it was the RedHawks’ ability to go toe-to-toe with mighty Providence that excited Sefcik the most.

“They lost a couple of pitchers, but they’re the defending champs and a lot of those position players are back playing for them,” he said of the Celtics. “It’s good for a team to play everybody you’re going to play in sectionals, and we played pretty well. I saw that Providence scored 15 and 18 runs in the next two games.”

Marist’s best chance to strike against Villasenor was in the first when it placed two runners in scoring position. However, the threat died and the RedHawks (2-1) were hard-pressed to issue any others seeing as how Pat Meehan was the only player to hit safely. One of his two hits was a double.

Kairis pitched 5 2/3 frames and was nicked for just three hits. He walked three and whiffed two.

“I think we’ll be one of those teams that will be a tough one to play later on,” Sefcik said. “It’s a good group. We don’t have the flamethrower [on the hill], but we can throw strikes, play pretty good defense and know how to manufacture runs.”

            Marist 8

            De La Salle 7

While that last asset was MIA versus Providence, the RedHawks demonstrated their proficiency in that area one day later.

There were certainly some contributors with the sticks -- Brian Wood, for instance, stroked a couple of hits and both Kairis and John Carmody supplied one hit and two RBI -- but Marist’s comeback from that early 4-0 deficit wasn’t only about that. Also factored in was a good batting eye, something shared by several RedHawks.

“We did a good job of holding off on pitches [outside the strike zone] and they walked a lot of guys,” Sefcik said of the Meteors. “At this point we’ve walked more than we’ve struck out -- that’s something I wouldn’t mind seeing continue.”

Sefick described De La Salle as “a pretty scrappy team,” but that same tag could easily be attached to Marist, which made its coach “real happy that we kept chipping away at them.” But before the RedHawks could bag the victory, they had to survive one last anxious moment.

Down by one with the tying run aboard, the Meteors threatened to tie -- and perhaps move back in front -- when one of their hitters sent a ball to deep center field. However, Kairis drew a bead on it and hauled it at the fence for the game’s final out.

That made a winner of reliever Brandon Hanik, who worked 2 2/3 innings on a yield of one earned run while recording a strikeout and walking one. Jack Snyder earned a save.

Marty Meyer started for Marist, and although he got roughed up at the outset Sefick kept him in the contest. Meyer rewarded his coach’s faith by settling down and pitching very credibly over the next two-plus frames, doing well enough to elicit some praise from Secik.

The RedHawks traveled to South Carolina for a series of games this week.

 

Better by the dozen

  • Written by Ken Karrson

 

Better by the dozen

Knights match school-record win streak

 

By Ken Karrson

Sports Editor

 

The 12 days of Christmas made famous in song have nothing on the first 12 game days on Chicago Christian’s baseball schedule.

Gifts were also plentiful for the Knights over that period, although the variety of them left something to be desired. And that’s exactly how Eric Brauer and his players liked it.

The absence of calling birds, French hens and a partridge made no difference since everyone in the Christian program preferred victories over anything else. With four more added to the team total last week, the Knights had 12 for the year, all of them notched in succession.

Each triumph re-established the school standard for consecutive wins to open a season, and the 12th equaled Chicago Christian’s best streak at any juncture of a campaign. Two of the most recent also got the Knights off to a fast start in the Metro Suburban Conference.

Beaten twice last week was league foe Walther Christian (3-2 and 10-0) while Lisle (7-4) and University High (4-0) were taken down on Thursday and Saturday, respectively.

“We’ve never started a season thinking that way,” Brauer said, referring to the anticipation of a rapid getaway. “We play what’s in front of us. The last couple years we hadn’t even played 12 games in March.

“Obviously we’re excited about what we’ve done. We’ve got plenty to tighten up, [but] I really enjoy my kids this year and competing with them.”

Competition is what Walther gave Chicago Christian (12-0, 2-0) in earnest last Monday. The Broncos led through 3 ½ innings and an ensuing 2-all tie wasn’t broken until the sixth when Trevor Wolterink and Zach Frieling belted back-to-back doubles for the Knights.

That duo went a combined 6-for-6 on the day, which allowed Christian to overcome an otherwise stagnant offense and make a winner of reliever Tyler Edgar, who struck out six, walked one and gave up two hits in 4 1/3 innings of work. Frieling drove in the Knights’ other two runs with his fourth-inning two-bagger, which followed singles by Jack DeVries and Wolterink.

“We don’t want one or two guys to have to carry us all the time,” Brauer said. “[But] their pitcher did a nice job. He commanded three different pitches and we were a little off-balance at times.

“A lot of teams in our conference have one really strong pitcher [so] you expect Monday games to be tough. It wasn’t pretty, but we did enough to win.”

That included ending the contest with catcher Brian Finger picking off a Walther baserunner.

                        ***

Brauer felt the Broncos had “probably played as well as they could play on Monday. They didn’t do anything to beat themselves.” But because it got saddled with a loss anyway Walther might have been dealing with a bit of shaken confidence.

Whatever the reason the Broncos squad that hosted Christian on Tuesday was far more easily vanquished. The Knights scored a run in four of their first five at-bats and then closed out Walther with a six-run explosion in the sixth. DeVries (two-run) and Christian Bolhuis both homered to highlight the late rally.

Pat McCarthy delivered two singles and a total of three RBI on the day, winning pitcher Dan Vos knocked in another run with a hit and Ron Clark socked a triple that led to a score when the Broncos made an overthrow at the end of the play.

On the mound Vos ran his record to 4-0 with a five-inning stint that included four strikeouts and just three hits allowed.

            Chicago Christian     7

            Lisle    4

The Knights spotted the Lions three first-inning runs on Thursday at Plunkett Park in Elmhurst and didn’t erase that entire deficit until the fourth frame. That’s when Christian erupted for four markers to grab a 6-3 lead.

“We saw a different [type of] pitcher every day and we didn’t really settle in and [consistently] have great at-bats,” Brauer said. “We did struggle offensively [at times], but we did a nice job of chipping away [against Lisle].”

The Knights’ uprising in the fourth featured RBI from Adam Schoenle (sacrifice fly), Jacob Bulthuis (double), Vos (single) and McCarthy (single). Vos had lofted a sacrifice fly one inning earlier while Christian’s other two runs in the game came courtesy of Lions miscues.

Schoenle relieved Bolhuis in the first stanza and was credited with pitching seven full innings. Schoenle fanned nine, surrendered three hits, walked two and needed only 83 pitches to collect his third victory of the spring.

“That was the best he’s thrown for us since he’s been at Chicago Christian,” Brauer said of Schoenle. “He really threw strong.”

            Chicago Christian     4

            University High         0

Strong too was the performance put on by Wolterink Saturday versus the Maroons, who whiffed 10 times against him over five innings. Bolhuis and Edgar each registered one strikeout in a one-inning relief stint.

But while the Knights’ pitching was top-notch, their batting languished. Not until the fifth did Christian break through, and even then it got a boost from a University error that let the initial run cross the plate. Clark smacked a two-out, two-run single and Vos had an RBI hit to complete the scoring in that inning.

“The first 17 guys in the game got out -- nine of ours and eight of theirs,” Brauer said. “It was definitely a slow start and they were one out away [in the fifth] from [us not] doing [much] damage.”

Two meetings with Ridgewood, which finished second to Illiana Christian in the MSC in 2014, and one with Wheaton Academy were the key dates for the Knights this week.

“In my mind this is a really big week -- Wheaton Academy’s had our number lately so we’ll see how we compete,” Brauer said. “We’re not real focused on a conference championship; we’re more focused on the postseason, but Mondays and Tuesdays give you a good idea of where you’re at because you’re [usually] facing good pitching.”

While everything has been smooth sailing thus far, Brauer admits there is one area that can be a concern for a good club under certain conditions.

“It’s tough to make a lot of changes when you’re winning because you’ve kind of settled into a lineup,” he said. “So it’s a challenge to keep the entire roster happy [because] you can’t get 15 guys normal reps. You hope they enjoy being part of a successful team.

“Winning doesn’t make all problems disappear. You can have problems, but we really do have a good mix of kids that play for the team.”

 

Coyne instrumental in U.S. regaining world title

  • Written by Ken Karrson

 

COYNEFEACHPHOTO.4-9

Coyne instrumental in U.S. regaining world title

By Tim Cronin

            It was a simple play, one attempted often but not always executed with the precision needed to succeed.

Kendall Coyne made that play Saturday afternoon in Malmo, Sweden, doing so at the time her team -- the U.S. women’s hockey team -- needed it most.

The Americans and rival Canada were tied at 5-all with less than nine minutes left in regulation. The championship game of the Women’s World Championship had already seen wide-open river hockey in the first period when the U.S. took a 4-2 lead and Canada’s second-period counterpunch, which consisted of three goals in just over two minutes, the last of which knotted the score.

The third period was closer to both teams’ core: tight checking, defense first, chances taken only after assessing the risks.

Risk assessment was what Palos Heights native and Sandburg graduate Coyne did while leaving the U.S. zone in traffic along the left-wing boards. She fired a quick pass -- which was banked off the boards so it would elude a Canadian defender -- ahead to linemate Hilary Knight.
            Without playing the proper angle, the puck likely skitters away or gets picked off and the Canadians suddenly would have had numbers flooding the U.S. zone. But Coyne’s pass was perfect and Knight gobbled it up at full speed -- with company.

“Actually, I recall looking to go cross-ice to [Brianna] Decker,” Coyne said. “But the defenseman was there, so I put it up the boards. And if it got past Hilary, she’s one of the best players in the world [so] she’d know what to do.”

Some 30 feet to Knight’s right was Decker, the third member of the line, who was also flying. Only one Canadian defender was back. The duo breezed into the Canadian zone, Knight flicked the puck to Decker at the perfect time and Decker hammered it home for a 6-5 lead with 8 minutes and 18 seconds remaining.

The Canadians had no answer. One hooking penalty later the U.S. power play struck, Coyne doing the striking. She grabbed a rebound to the left of Canada’s net, scooted around it and went to the high slot.

“We were overloading the right side, so I took it high,” Coyne said. “I was looking to pass.”

Instead, she whistled a wrist shot past goaltender Genevieve Lacasse with 6:42 left for the insurance goal in the Americans’ 7-5 title-game victory.

It was hardly a surprise that Coyne was in the middle of it all when the game was on the line. She scored the gold medal-winning goals in the first two Women’s World Junior championships, doing so in sudden-death overtime on the second occasion. What would have been the winning goal the third straight year was wiped out by an incorrect call.

And when she finally made the Olympic squad, Coyne was a big threat on the biggest stage of all as she paced the U.S. in scoring.

The seed for Saturday’s victory might well have been planted then, 14 months ago, in Sochi, Russia. The Americans led Canada late in the Olympic championship game, only to see the Canadians tie the score in the third period and win in overtime. And while the U.S. had claimed the previous four world championships, Canada has won the Olympic title since the second tournament in 1994.

Most of the 2014 American team was back, but the coach was new as Ken Klee is now behind the bench. He had to instill a new attitude while using an old wound as a spur, and do so in short order. The team assembled only after the collegiate regular season concluded -- Coyne had just finished her junior campaign at Northeastern University in Boston.

If any demons were in U.S. players’ minds after the Canadians scored thrice in 2:03 of the second period on Saturday, it wasn’t evident in the third. They buckled down defensively and then Coyne made a play. But Canada had come back before.

“[With] the veterans on the team, what’s going through their minds is exactly what you think is,” Coyne said. “But Coach Klee was great. He said, ‘Two more shifts. Bust your butt for 40 seconds each time.’”

They did and got the trophy as a reward.

“I think it’s a big relief and a big accomplishment for our girls to battle back in a game where you’re up and then it gets tied up again [and you manage] to still find a way to get it done,” Klee told IIHF.com.

Again playing bigger than her 5-foot-2 frame would suggest is possible, Coyne finished with a plus-8 defensive rating, a mark shared by Decker and Knight. Knight was named tournament MVP and was joined by Decker on the all-tourney squad. Together the three linemates piled up 30 points in five games, all victories.

Knight finished with 12 points, Decker had 11 and Coyne seven on three goals and four assists.

“Personally, it was really easy because I was playing with Brianna Decker and Kendall Coyne,” Knight said of her tournament scoring. “How do you not perform the way I performed at this tournament with those guys? Huge hats off to my linemates -- they’re phenomenal players.”

“It was definitely a back-and-forth game,” Knight said. “I’m sure the fans loved it. And obviously you can come out with a smile on your face if you played hard and you come out with a win.”

That’s especially true when the outcome of a year ago can be left on the tarmac before the flight home.

For Coyne, it’s three golds and a silver in world and Olympic competition, a glittering resume that, aside from players in her group, few American hockey players can match. But the player who as a kid told her mom that figure skating wouldn’t cut it -- “I need the sport,” she said all those years ago -- is eager for more.

How long will she play?

“As many times as my body will allow,” Coyne said.

 

Every which way they can

  • Written by Ken Karrson

 

Every which way they can

Vikings use different means to bag pair of wins

 

By Ken Karrson

Sports Editor

 

Give St. Laurence some credit for ingenuity.

When a team musters just five hits in one game and commits nine errors in the next, the odds against success would appear to be stacked pretty high. But not only did the Vikings overcome both those circumstances in their first week of action, their triumphs were gained by shockingly wide margins.

In last Thursday’s season-opener versus Lake View, for example, St. Laurence tallied at least three times in three separate innings to win via mercy rule, 11-0. Then on Saturday the Vikings traveled to Peoria for what was planned as a two-game stay.

Peoria Notre Dame, however, bowed out, perhaps after seeing St. Laurence survive a slew of mishaps in the field to defeat Peoria Richwoods 14-6. While Vikings coach Pete Lotus wasn’t especially enamored of making a long journey for just one contest or seeing all the defensive breakdowns, watching a high-octane offense do its thing brightened his mood.

“We didn’t play well defensively -- I’ve never been a part of nine errors and it was a little frustrating,” Lotus said. “[But] we swung the bats great.”

Fifteen hits testified to that, and St. Laurence augmented those with 13 stolen bases. Kevin Aderman swiped four bags, four other players had two thefts and the Vikings boasted five multiple-hit guys, a quintet led by Anthony Rios (4-for-5, two RBI) and Jimmy Burnette (3-for-3).

Also getting into the batting act were Mike Finger (two hits, three RBI), Tommy Farrell (double, triple, two RBI), Jack Cavanaugh (two hits), Nick Verta (bases-clearing triple) and Anthony Chimera (one hit, two RBI).

Undoubtedly St. Laurence’s assault caught at least some people by surprise. Don’t count Lotus among that group, however.

“We’re possibly overlooked because of the guys we lost,” said Lotus, whose 2014 graduates included 2013 Player of the Year Mike Kornacker (Purdue) and Brad Wood (Northern Illinois). “These are not as recognizable names and some new guys are going to have to step up, but don’t get me wrong: We’re going to be good. We have some talented kids.

“I think our guys have worked really hard and I don’t expect anything different than in other years, [which means] going out there and truly competing. I think the guys expect that too.”

The Vikings’ two lower-level clubs both posted more than 20 victories last spring and seriously challenged for Chicago Catholic League titles, so a winning mentality is already in place. St. Laurence did receive a tough blow, though, as senior John Riordan broke a bone in his hand in a non-game situation and will be lost for the remainder of the season.

“It’s disappointing for John and I feel awful for him,” Lotus said. “Even with the big guys we had last year, he had four or five wins and he had a great summer. He was kind of a leader for us.”

Frank Greco, who knocked in one of the Vikings’ runs with a sacrifice fly, surrendered 10 hits during a five-inning stint on the hill but was touched for only three earned runs. He struck out four while capturing his eighth consecutive varsity triumph without a loss dating back to last season.

Mike Munoz and Cavanaugh each threw an inning of relief, with the latter striking out the side in the seventh.

            St. Laurence 11

            Lake View 0

Five hits aren’t normally enough to get an offense labeled potent, but when they’re mixed with eight hit batsmen and seven walks it spells trouble for the opposition. Such was the scenario on Thursday as the Wildcats got rolled.

“It wasn’t like their pitchers were terrible -- they just didn’t throw many strikes,” Lotus said. “It’s obviously tough to tell much when you’re getting walked and hit by pitches that many times, but I thought we did a pretty good job [of capitalizing on chances].”

Rios’ RBI triple was St. Laurence’s lone extra-base hit and one of two on the day for him. Greco (hit by pitch, sacrifice fly), Riordan (single), Finger (hit by pitch), Burnette (walk) and Dan Cummings (walk) were the Vikings’ other RBI men. Hitting safely in addition to Rios and Riordan were Cavanaugh and Anthony Robles.

Dan Heiden, the first of three St. Laurence hurlers, was credited with the win after going three stanzas on a yield of one hit while fanning four. Lake View notched just two other hits in the remaining frames off relievers Zach Erdman and Munoz.

Three games were on this week’s schedule, the last of those being Saturday’s matchup with Wheaton-St. Francis. Prior to that the Vikings were due to square off with Lincoln-Way Central and Harlan.