Evergreen Park (EP) senior first baseman Pat Doran wasn’t afraid of the pressure he faced against Tinley Park on May 26 in the sixth inning of the Class 3A Bremen regional championship; he relished it.
With 1 out and runners on second and third, Doran was eager for the chance to blow open a big game.
But as Doran and the Mustangs learned that day, the game of baseball can be cruel.
Fooled by an offspeed pitch on the outside corner, Doran went down swinging, and the Mustangs’ inning ended with a lineout to center from the next batter.
The Mustangs stranded two runners in every inning through the sixth. Trailing by 2 runs in the top of the seventh, EP had one last chance to deliver a game-changing hit with the bases loaded.
Unfortunately, sophomore second baseman Billy Miller’s liner to left was caught for the final out of the game.
It was the tale of the game for EP, which stranded 15 runners during a tough 4-2 defeat. Despite the outcome, Doran remained upbeat.
“That’s the situation I pray for,” Doran said. “I’m 110-percent confident in myself that I can come through. Every inning, we had runners in scoring position. We just couldn’t get the big hit when we had to. That’s baseball.”
The loss snapped a three-year streak of regional championships for EP, which finished 16-13.
“We needed that one hit. Billy smoked it,” said EP Coach Mark Smyth. “A couple feet the other way, and maybe we’re up. He did a great job in that situation chasing two with bases loaded. We had a chance.”
Miller and senior Kenny Rickert had 2 hits apiece as the Mustangs finished with 7 hits.
Tinley Park starter Collin Wilma struck out 9 to slow down EP.
With EP down 1-0 in the fifth, freshman catcher Sammy Rogers finally broke through on Wilma with a hard-hit grounder to short. As the Tinley Park fielder bobbled the ball and fired to first, Tabari Brown and Doran scored to put EP up 2-1.
“We’re looking first-pitch fastball. We wanted to get it in the gaps or put the ball in play and let them make an error,” Rogers said. “I put the ball in play and did what I had to do.”
Tinley Park responded with 3 runs in the bottom of the sixth to go up 4-2.
Brown, Doran and Karlton Carpenter had a hit apiece for EP.
A South Suburban College recruit, Doran praised his team’s accomplishments, despite coming up short in the title game.
“A great group of guys and I couldn’t be more proud,” Doran said. “We battled all year. There were doubts, lack of pitching and experience, but we came through and overcame all that adversity.”
Sophomore starter C.J. Kompare allowed 4 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks with 1 strikeout in 5.2 innings.
EP senior shortstop Declan Smyth, the three-hitter in the lineup, was ejected for throwing his bat in the third inning. Smyth had reached first on a Tinley Park error.
A three-year varsity player, Smyth will attend North Central College. According to the team’s skipper, the loss was heartbreaking.
“It’s tough to take with the group of seniors we have. I’ve been coaching 27 years, about 800 baseball games,” Coach Smyth said. “I’ve never seen a kid ejected for throwing a bat. Declan has never been warned in the past. It seems like the right spot to interpret the rule book.”
In the regional semifinals on May 23, EP defeated host Bremen 7-4.
Next year, Rogers, Miller, Kompare and Karlton Carpenter are expected back to lead a young team.
“CJ pitched a whale of a game,” Coach Smyth said. “We’ve got pieces, and the lower levels had a nice year. We’re excited about the future.”