Youth Baseball: Blue Demons Take Another Crack at Elusive Title
Jordan Hughes' return provides inspiration for Oak Forest 12-under baseball team as it begins play in Battle of Burbs tournament with a victory over the Tinley Park Bobcats.
On Tuesday night, the Oak Forest Blue Demons were cruising to victory.
Up 4-0 in the top of the seventh inning against the Tinley Park Bulldogs, all the 12-under Pony League baseball team needed was three outs to be the champions of the Bulldogs Tournament. Then, a foul ball was hit toward Oak Forest first baseman Jordan Hughes, who promptly ran it down.
However, Hughes rolled his ankle and broke his foot in his attempt to track down the foul ball. “I was going for the ball, and then I rolled my ankle,” Hughes said. “I heard something crack.”
The 12-year-old didn’t want to come out. He wanted to fight through the pain, but he was forced to leave with the injury. That’s when things fell apart for the Blue Demons. The Bulldogs went on to score five runs in the inning, and Oak Forest failed to score in the bottom of the seventh.
“One thing lead to another–it was contagious–and they came back,” said Blue Demons assistant coach Marty Hughes, who is Jordan’s father.
A Chance at Redemption
Oak Forest didn’t have to wait long to get back on the field, as Wednesday marked the beginning of the Oak Forest Baseball Association 12-under Battle of the Burbs Tournament. The Blue Demons opened up play with a 15-0 victory over the Tinley Park Bobcats at Convent Park in Oak Forest.
First baseman Tim Lash led the way, going 4-for-4 with three RBIs. Seven other players contributed at least one RBI, while Sammy Alcala, Mike Feeley and A.J. Septoski combined for the shutout on the mound.
Jordan Hughes provided some inspiration, as he showed up halfway through the game with crutches and a cast on his foot.
“It was great,” Blue Demons manager Kris Noftz said.”They could have got down on themselves, but they cleared their heads, came back and played a great game.”
Twelve teams are competing in the tournament, including the Tinley Park Bulldogs. The teams will play into the early afternoon Saturday to determine the seeding for the playoff round of the tournament, which every team makes. The Blue Demons next face the Homer Fire at 5:45 p.m. Thursday.
It would mean a lot for the Blue Demons to win the tournament. “It’d be huge after that almost for-sure win that was snatched right out from under us,” Marty Hughes said. “It’s going to be hard though.”
Getting to Know the Community
According to the parents and coaches of the Blue Demons, the team has been great for friendships.
“I’ve met tons of people through this,” Noftz said. “I was newer to the area, while my wife grew up here. Every weekend we’re doing something now with parents from here. The kids too–my son has met a lot of people.”
“Everybody’s close and everybody knows each other,” Marty Hughes said. “It’s just great to come out in the summer and be on the field.”
The coaches stress discipline and hard work, as evidenced by Jordan Hughes’ hustle to catch the foul ball. The game teaches humility.
One might think the players would want to gain bragging rights from winning the Battle of the Burbs over neighboring towns. Jordan Noftz, son of Kris Noftz and the Blue Demons catcher, said he’s learned better from the playing the game of baseball.
“If we do win, it’s not nice to say things to the other players,” Noftz said. “It’s good sportsmanship to say, ‘Good job.’ ”
The Blue Demons as a team showed humility and teamwork after Wednesday’s game. The team let Jordan Hughes, there to support his team despite his injury, lead the post-game team chant to break up the team-huddle.