Oak Park’s quick start overpowers Rita06/01/2011 Chicago
Oak Park-River Forest senior Zach Weigel pitches during the Sectional Semi Final game against Saint Rita at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago on Wednesday, June 1, 2011.
| Michael Jarecki ~ for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 1, 2011 11:50PM
All day Tuesday, texts were flying back and forth between Oak Park-River Forest coach Chris Ledbetter and his leadoff hitter, Frank Picchiotti.
Ledbetter was worried about Picchiotti’s mobility: “I said, ‘You didn’t look good running at practice.’ He said, ‘I promise you I’ll look fine tomorrow.’”
Picchiotti made good on that promise, slugging a three-run homer to help power the Huskies to a 13-7 win over St. Rita Wednesday in a Class 4A sectional semifinal at Mount Carmel.
The Huskies (29-9) advance to Saturday’s title game against the winner of Thursday’s Clemente-Mount Carmel semifinal.
Picchiotti took notice of the favorable breeze to left Wednesday and made the most of it, slugging his first homer since the Huskies’ spring trip to Florida.
“I was feeling a lot more comfortable than usual,” he said. “I was seeing the ball really well.”
More surprising than his own power show was the fact that no one else homered.
“The wind was blowing out so hard, I thought every ball hit in the air was going to go out,” Picchiotti said.
His homer came in the top of the second and pushed Oak Park’s lead to 6-2. Mike Brennan’s two-run single and Alec Jeffries’ RBI hit in the first gave the Huskies a 3-0 edge, but St. Rita got two runs back on Brian Sicher’s two-run single in the bottom of the inning.
The Mustangs added two more in the bottom of the second to make it 6-4, and neither team scored again till the fifth. That’s when the Huskies turned six walks, two wild pitches, two errors and three hits – including Jack Picchiotti’s two-run single and Brennan’s RBI single – into seven runs and a 13-4 lead.
Huskies ace P.J. Brennan took care of the rest, getting the last five outs to nail down the win for starter Zach Weigel (5-2).
“We set this up so he would pitch Saturday,” Ledbetter said of Brennan. “He’s been our best pitcher all year. He threw 23 pitches (Wednesday); it’s like a bullpen (session).”
Frank Picchiotti finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored and three RBI, while Brennan went 2-for-5 with three RBI. Jack Picchiotti was 1-for-4 with two RBI.
St. Rita was paced by Stefano Belmonte (3-for-3, RBI), Zach Soria (2-for-4, run), Sean Kalisz (2-for-3, run) and Sicher (1-for-3, two RBI). Starter Scott Thomas took the loss. Louisville-bound reliever Joe Filomeno, who missed much of the season with a back injury, retired 10 of the first 12 batters he faced before running into control trouble, walking seven and striking out six in 3 2/3 innings.