Baseball: Funkhouser, Oak Forest Advance to 3A Title Game
Oak Forest 3, Nazareth 1. Bengal junior pitcher Kyle Funkhouser spread out three hits in a complete-game masterpiece.
Touching All the Bases: At the beginning of Oak Forest’s baseball season, it was considered a given that Bobby Sheppard, Tim Barry and Kyle Funkhouser would produce for the Bengals. Coach Thaddeus Gatton knew if his team was going to have any success, much would depend on the development of the supporting cast.
Those "other guys" came through in the clutch in the fourth inning on Saturday morning at Silver Cross Field in Joliet to lead the Bengals to a 3-1 victory over Nazareth Academy in the Class 3A state semifinals. Oak Forest moves on to the state championship game at 11 a.m. Saturday.
To set the stage for Oak Forest’s three-run fourth inning, Nazareth Academy stole the early momentum. In the bottom of the second, Nazareth catcher Justin Gonzalez slammed a solo home run over the left field wall off of Funkhouser, the Oak Forest starter.
The Bengals, however, quickly regained the momentum when Sheppard threw out Nazareth Academy left fielder Rob Petrak with a one-legged throw after fielding the grounder to his right at short. The play ended the second inning.
Oak Forest regained the lead in the fourth. Sheppard led off with a single and then reached third on a bunt single from center fielder Cody Murray. George Jester followed by reaching on an error, which set the stage for Arthur Johnson, who drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game 1-1.
Kyle Linares drove in a run with a sacrifice fly, and pinch-runner Jim Blake scored on a wild pitch and Oak Forest led 3-1.
Funkhouser got out of a jam in fifth. With one out and runners on second and third, he struck out Nazareth’s Pat Kelly. Then, Nazareth pinch-runner Sean Maloney was thrown out at the plate. Kelly attempted to score when Oak Forest catcher John Zubek tried to throw out a Nazareth runner at second.
Funkhouser walked a batter in the seventh, then was able to throw a double-play ball and retired the final Nazareth hitter on a flyout.
Patch’s MVP: Oak Forest starting pitcher Kyle Funkhouser (7 innings pitched, 4 strikeouts, 3 hits). Funkhouser improved to 12-0.
Oak Forest Leaders: In addition to Funkhouser, shortstop Bobby Sheppard (1-for-2 with 1 run scored). Designated hitter Arthur Johnson drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game 1-1. Pinch-hitter Kyle Linares had an RBI sac-fly. Pinch-runner Jim Blake scored on a wild pitch.
Nazareth Leaders: Relief pitcher Ryan Powers (4 innings pitched, 0 earned runs). Catcher Justin Gonzalez (1-for-2 with a solo home run).
Quotable: Oak Forest coach Thaddeus Gatton on the performances of his role players: “For us to get to this place, we needed the kids like Georgie Jester, Cody Murray, Arty Johnson and Johnny Zubek ... what a player he is behind the dish.”
Quotable II: Gatton on Funkhouser and his team’s defense: “Defensively, we were very good. We’ve been very confident with Funkhouser on the mound this year. He pounds the strike zone. Obviously, he’s 12-0 this year. He’s our horse without a doubt. But, defensively, we definitely picked up the ball.”
Team Records: Oak Forest improves to 27-7-1. Nazareth will take a 26-5 record into Saturday's third-place game.
What’s Next: Oak Forest takes on Kaneland at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Class 3A state championship game. Kaneland (25-10) defeated Waterloo 8-2.