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Hosting track and tennis tournaments along with a softball game, the Lyons Township south campus was filled with activity on Friday. Of course, the main attraction in Western Springs fittingly occurred on the baseball field as perennial rivals LT and visiting Oak Park completed their intense three-game series.
After splitting the first two games, the Lions pulled out a 4-2 victory to remain in contention with co-leader York for the West Suburban (Silver) Conference championship while essentially squashing any Oak Park title aspirations.
Trailing 4-1 in the top of the seventh inning, Oak Park (20-7-1, 9-6) offered one final threat before falling to LT. With one out, Sam Cottingham-Beard drew a walk, Colin O'Brien singled to right field and Zachary Weigel was hit by a pitch to load the bases. The play of the game came next as Purdue-bound Oak Park catcher Sam Picchiotti hit a ground ball and was called out at first base. While Cottingham-Beard scored to make the score 4-2 and the other runners advanced to second and third, Picchiotti was ejected from the game for "apparently" overreacting via a comment to the close call at first base.
"It was a bang-bang play at first base," Oak Park coach Chris Ledbetter said about the ruling. "I saw it one way and the umpire saw it another. I think it was ridiculous [the umpire] threw Jack out. I didn't feel Jack was showing him up. I've coached basketball, football, baseball and are you kidding me, a kid gets thrown out for playing his heart out?
"We showed a lot of fight in the last inning; I wish I would have seen a little more of that earlier in the game."
Alex Rice grounded out to the shortstop to end the game as LT winning pitcher Matt Robare battled well to preserve the victory. Robare (7-1) yielded just one earned and four hits with three strikeouts primarily relying on an effective mix of fastballs and changeups.
"I had all my pitches working well," Robare said. "I established my changeup early. Playing Oak Park whether its basketball or baseball is an awesome rivalry."
Early in the game, the Lions (18-10-1, 12-4) produced a few timely hits coupled with some Oak Park miscues defensively to seize a 4-0 lead after two innings. Up 1-0, the Lions' Blake Murray reached base via a throwing error from Oak Park second baseman Jack Belcaster, his second errant throw of the game. Jack Prescott advanced Murray with a great bunt and Michael Lorenz singled and stole second base, putting runners on second and third with one out. Second baseman Stewart Nelson laced a two-RBI single, making the score 3-0.
"I haven't been hitting too well lately," Nelson said, "so I was just trying to put the bat on the ball. This is a great win and hopefully we can go on to win conference."
Keith Lehmann added a RBI double to extend the Lions' advantage to 4-0.
While Robare earned the complete game win for LT, Max Guzzetta threw well with four scoreless innings in relief of Weigel (5-1) for the Huskies. The normally stellar Weigel, who threw a no-hitter on May 5 against Downers North, labored a bit on the mound.
"Max did a great job," Ledbetter said. "That's a tough situation to come into when they are geared up and hitting the ball. He came in and gave us a chance."
The Huskies scored their first run of the game in the sixth inning on Matt McCormack's RBI via a fielder's choice.
On Saturday, LT split a doubleheader with York in Elmhurst to remain in a tie with the Dukes for the conference lead. The teams meet again for a single game this week, with the winner earning sole possession of first place.