Baseball: Oak Park-River Forest names Joe McKune as Friday’s starting pitcher
Updated: June 5, 2012 6:00PM
Barely a half-hour after beating Highland Park to win the Class 4A Rockford Supersectional Monday, Oak Park-River Forest coach Chris Ledbetter knew who his starter would be for Friday’s state semifinal.
Ledbetter’s choice, senior right-hander Joe McKune, is better known as one of OPRF’s top golfers during the fall. He was the Huskies’ No. 3 scorer in the Class 3A state meet and tied for 79th after carding an 85 in his final round as a high school golfer.
But McKune will try to transfer his success on the golf course to the baseball diamond at 3 p.m. Friday when No. 3 OPRF (29-9-1) plays first-time state qualifier Grant (25-11) at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
Considering McKune has spent a greater portion of his baseball career as a reliever, his next game is by far the most important start of his career. McKune was the winning pitcher in OPRF’s 2-1 win over Evanston May 26 in the regional final. That game was saved by ace starter Zach Weigel.
Weigel could be available in a relief role Friday, if needed, after throwing 103 pitches in the 1-0 supersectional win over Highland Park (20-20). Weigel wasn’t always sharp, walking three and hitting one batter, but limited the Giants to three hits. McKune warmed up twice in the bullpen during Weigel’s complete game at Rockford RiverHawks Stadium in Loves Park.
“My last two starts were not too good,” Weigel said. “Today was tough to get the ball down. My control has struggled lately.”
Ledbetter shifted his lineup around for the supersectional, giving third baseman Mike Adams a rest by shifting shortstop Colin O’Brien to third and bringing in reserve Danny Shinsako to shortstop. That alignment could change this weekend depending on matchups against Grant or opposing semifinalists: Minooka or Lyons Township.
Defending state champion LT (second place in the West Suburban Conference Silver Division) and OPRF (third place) reached the state semifinals while conference champion York lost to eventual sectional champion Schaumburg in the first round of the playoffs.
OPRF’s previous state championship teams came in 1942 and 1981. The late Jack Kaiser was the winning coach for the Huskies’ last title team.
The Huskies’ last state-qualifying team lost to Prairie Ridge 3-2 in the 2008 state final. Current catcher Jack Picchiotti’s older brother, Sam, was a starting infielder in 2008 as a junior. Sam batted a team-leading .475 that season and tied for the team lead in home runs (five) and ranked second in RBI (37).