Just a few weeks ago, the Oswego Cats endured a pair of losses to Lombard that seemed to derail their regular-season momentum.
When the teams met again this past weekend, a similar result ended the Cats’ playoff aspirations. The host Orioles took the National Amateur Baseball Federation (NABF) Regional at Madison Meadows with Sunday’s 16-4 victory.
Lombard – owner of the best record in the Chicago Suburban Baseball League – will now travel to Battle Creek (Mich.) for the opening round of the Charles M. Blackburn Major Division World Series.
Oswego (20-14, 14-12), meanwhile, heads home despite posting its seventh straight 20-win season.
The double-elimination tournament started off well, but the Cats eventually ran into a buzzsaw.
After taking the opening-round game against Westmont 5-4 on Friday night, the Cats were saddled with the challenge of toppling the dominant Orioles, who defeated Team Acceleration on Thursday evening in its first game.
Lombard, which won a doubleheader 10-6 and 4-0 at Jackie’s Field of Dreams on July 25, dominated Oswego 16-3 on Saturday afternoon, and Sunday’s result was nearly identical.
“That’s a [darn] good team right there,” Cats field manager Todd Miller said. “They just hit everything we threw up there. We didn’t get strike calls, and [Saturday], we kinda got squeezed a little bit, but that still doesn’t take away the fact that they were just hitting the ball all over the yard. It’s tough to beat that.”
Oswego struggled against Lombard in 2018, going 0-6 in their meetings, but games between these foes have been incredibly competitive overall. Last summer, the two met in the regional championship for an epic 18-inning contest that the Cats won.
This time, however, the Cats were unable to come out on top, and their fight wasn’t enough to outlast a relentless Orioles team that racked up 19 hits on the day.
“This is by far the best team we’ve ever played, and that includes the team out of Houston that we played in the 2012 [in the American Amateur Baseball Congress Stan Musial World Series],” Miller said. “[Lombard] does not have a hole.”
The Orioles jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first and tacked on six more in the second, ending the day for Cats right-hander Kendall Interial (10 runs, eight hits, four walks, 1 2-3 innings), who was spelled by right-hander Jacob Lipscomb for the rest of the game.
Oswego came back with four runs in the bottom of the inning. Catcher Rocco Pascente brought a run in on a single to right, and then he came home on second baseman Trevor Lines’ three-run double.
“We kind of battled back and kind of got ourselves back in it,” Miller said. “We just keep plugging away like we always do and put up a couple of runs late; we weren’t going to go away quietly, and I give our guys a lot of credit for playing to the end, for not throwing the towel in. Of course, it’s disappointing to lose, but I’m not disappointed with the effort, not one bit.”
Lombard came out swinging in another four-run inning in the third before tacking on single runs in the fourth and sixth against Lipscomb, who finished with 11 hits and three walks allowed, as well as eight strikeouts in his 5 1-3 innings of work.
“Some days it goes absolutely great, and some days it just doesn’t come together,” Miller said.
While a game like Sunday’s could dishearten an inexperienced squad, there was nothing but optimism from Miller, who expressed positivity in his team’s efforts and is already starting to look toward next summer.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who could make a big difference moving forward, but overall, we’ve got a solid team – we won 14 games in the league, and only three other teams did that,” he said.
“I’m not saying we were the best team out here last year, but we played as a team, and everyone pitched in. This year, we just couldn’t get over the hump, and we couldn’t stop the momentum from their side.”