1988 Baseball Team (2005)
The first great awakening of Loyola Rambler baseball began when the 1968 team (Hall of Fame, 2002) captured the Catholic League North Section and planted the seeds which would flourish through the first half of the 70s and the Leibrant Era. A decade of mediocrity followed. It was up to the 1988 Baseball Team to bring the second great awakening to Loyola's diamond tradition, restoring the glory and inaugurating a renaissance that has sustained for almost twenty years. Coach John O'Loughlin (Hall of Fame, 1990) and his assistant Mark Hanafee, knew they had something special brewing. Eight key contributors from the 1987 team returned, including ace starting pitcher Marty Ray. Through hampered by the typically cold and wet spring weather, Loyola's diamond men showed early signs of looming success. Under the watchful guidance of O'Loughlin and Hanafee, the Ramblers drilled tirelessly on the fundamentals as they toiled through the pre-season slate of games in preparation for their run at a Catholic League title. They posted a tidy 11-3 pre-league record while solidifying their lineup and defining their roles. The time for preparation was over. The Ramblers opened Catholic League play with a 10-0 drubbing of Gordon Teach, followed by a tough one-run loss to St. Rita. A six-game streak was halted when the Ramblers hit their roughest patch of the season, losing three in a row, including a critical two to North Section rival, Fenwick. At 7-4, Loyola needed to rebound in a big way or the season would be lost. Thereafter, the Ramblers came alive, exploding to a 7-1 streak and running their regular season record to 24 wins against only 8 losses while grabbing second place in the Catholic League North Section. The boys of spring began the post-season with justifiable hopes that if they could sustain the solid play demonstrated by 24 wins, they might catch lightning in a bottle: If they could match a hot pitcher with hot bats, they could perhaps make a run deep into the state series. They opened at home with the Dons of Notre Dame. Marty Ray tied his own record of seventeen strikeouts in a brilliant display of pitching, and he found support in the Loyola bats as senior Andy Engels collected three hits and the game-winning RBI, while junior John Leahy batted in two runs. Loyola took a close contest, 7-6, and Ray improved his record to 11-2. Alas, in the second round against Maine West, the story proved far different. Sophomore Pat Mahoneys (Hall of Fame, 1990) three hits (including two doubles) and senior Steve Mahers eight assists went for naught in a disappointing 11-5 loss. The Ramblers finished with a shining 25-9 record, at the time a new school mark for wins (since eclipsed by the 26 wins in 2001 and 2002). Marty Ray finished with a 1.07 ERA (with 93 strikeouts in 49 innings pitched) and eleven wins, still a school record. In a vote of the coaches, he was awarded the Lawless Award given annually to the top player in the Catholic League. Ray followed his All-Catholic League selection with selection to the All-State team. Joining Ray on the All-Catholic team was first baseman Andy Engels, who provided the heavy lumber throughout the season. Catcher John Klebba and outfielders Dave Fritzsche and Jon Adams were named to the All-Catholic North Section squad. A host of other key contributors, like seniors John Hancir, Steve Maher, and Jason Pompeii; juniors Toddy Poulos and Pat Welch; and sophomore Pat Mahoney played vital roles in a record-setting season. Their season-ending setback notwithstanding, the 1988 Baseball Team reestablished the Ramblers reputation in Catholic League and area baseball circles, serving notice that Loyola was back and setting the standard for the championship teams that were to follow. The renaissance had begun once more.