Touching All the Bases: Oak Forest hadn’t advanced to the state baseball semifinals since 1985—the year the Bengals went on to win the Class AA state title—but that drought ended Monday.
The Bengals defeated Jones College Prep 10-2 in the Class 3A Crestwood Supersectional at Standard Bank Stadium to punch their ticket to Friday's state semifinals.
Junior starting pitcher Kyle Linares continued to fight through an injury to his right (throwing) arm and shoulder to give the Bengals 4 1/3 innings of no-run ball, and the Oak Forest offense provided more than enough support.
Linares is fighting tendinitis in his right arm, but he started out hot in Monday’s game. He struck out the side in the bottom of the first inning and struck out the first Jones batter in the second.
He cruised into the fifth inning before re-aggravating a different injury—to his lower back. After Monday’s game, he said his back was sore but should be fine a couple of days.
On the offensive side, Oak Forest’s senior standouts Tim Barry and Bobby Sheppard led the way.
In the top of the second, Sheppard singled and made his way around the bases by stealing second and advancing to third on a fly out. He came home on a pitch from Jones starting pitcher Matt Sax in the dirt that got away from catcher Daniel Corral, and Oak Forest led 1-0.
In the third, Barry’s RBI double gave the Bengals a 2-0 lead, and Sheppard followed with an RBI single. Oak Forest blew open the game with a six-run fifth inning.
Despite a shaky sixth inning from the Oak Forest bullpen, the Bengals closed the door on Jones in the seventh with a 1-2-3 inning from relief pitcher Tom Zale.
Patch’s MVP: Starting pitcher Kyle Linares (4 1/3 innings pitched, 6 strikeouts, 4 hits allowed, 0 runs allowed). Linares also hit a two-run single in the fifth.
Oak Forest’s Leaders: In addition to Linares, senior shortstop Bobby Sheppard (3-for-3, RBI), senior left fielder Tim Barry (1-for-3, 2 RBIs), junior third baseman Kyle Sleeman (2-for-4 with 2 RBIs).
Jones’ Leaders: Second baseman Pablo Padilla (3-for-3), designated hitter Floyd Sumrall (1-for-3, 2-run single).
Quotable: Oak Forest pitcher Kyle Linares on feeling comfortable in a high-stakes game: “I love pressure. I love this atmosphere. I play better when it’s like this.”
Team Records: Oak Forest improved to 26-7-1. Jones ends its season at 20-12.
What’s Next: Oak Forest advances to Friday's Class 3A state semifinals at Silver Cross Field in Joliet. The Bengals will take on Nazareth Academy from LaGrange Park, the winner of the Naperville Supersectional, at 10 a.m.