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1968 Baseball Team (2002)

With its late inning heroics and clutch pitching, the 1968 Baseball team captured the Catholic League North Section championship, thus igniting Loyola baseball's winning tradition. Led by the legendary coaching duo of John O'Laughlin '59 (Hall of Fame, 1990) and Jim O'Laughlin '62 (Hall of Fame, 1998), the Ramblers started the season off with a 9-0 shutout of Fenwick at Loyola's "home field" of Wildwood Park which was located at McAlpin and Caldwell. The outfield trio of Mark Rahner, Nick O'Connor, and Tom Sylvester collected six hits and scored four runs. Dan DelFava and Henry Hyde threw a combined three-hitter, striking out fourteen Friars. After a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Weber (despite 14 strikeouts by Hyde), the Ramblers ran off a 3 game winning streak with wins over St. Laurence, Gordon Tech, and Hales Franciscan. Mendel's three-run rally in the bottom of the sixth put an end to Loyola's streak, but the Ramblers proved their mettle by winning their next four games. In one of those wins, junior Rich Clarke's 15-4 victory over DePaul, Loyola pounded out seventeen hits with eight different players collecting two hits each. After a mid-season slump, Loyola was challenged by Coach John O'Laughlin to win its remaining games in order to clinch the North Section. Responding to the call, the Ramblers reeled off five straight wins, climaxed by a thrilling 1-0 win over Brother Rice in the last regular season game. In that game, Henry Hyde made sure an unearned run scored by Steve Dumser in the second inning held up. Hyde struckout 16 Crusaders including the last three after the first two batters reached base in the 7th inning. Now it was onto the playoffs. The Ramblers faced Leo in the semi-finals, a best two out of three series. In game one, Jim McGwire's pinch hit single in the bottom of the 7th scored Tom "Boog" Powell with the winning run. Henry Hyde was his usual spectacular self, striking out twelve Lions. The late-inning heroics carried over to game two as Loyola overcame Dan DelFava's uncharacteristic wildness to win 4-3. Going into the game, DelFava had not hit a batter all year. In this game, he set a school recorded with six hit basemen. Kevin Murtha's (Hall of Fame, 1999) single in the top of the seventh scored DelFava with what proved to be the winning run. After disposing of Leo in two games, the Ramblers faced Brother Rice in a best two-out-of-three series to decide the Catholic League Championship. Loyola lost game one 6-2 but bounced back to win game two 4-3, scoring three runs in the top of the sixth. It was now down to one game for the Catholic League Championship. The game was a see-saw affair. Brother Rice jumped out in front with two runs in the second. Loyola responded with four in their half of the frame. After scoring a run in the third, the Crusaders seemed to bust the game open with seven runs in the fifth to take a 10-4 lead. The never-say-die Ramblers responded with 3 runs in the bottom of the fifth to close the gap to 10-7. Brother Rice scored one in the sixth and two in the seventh to take a 13-7 lead into the bottom of the seventh. A lead-off single by Jim McGuire got things rolling. Mark Rahner reached on an error by the shortstop. Nick O'Connor then singled, scoring McGuire. After a fielder's choice and a strike-out, Steve Dumser kept the inning alive by singling and driving in Rahner. Larry Baer stepped to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. Baer hit what would have been a game-tying grand slam at any other field except fenceless Horner Park. The center fielder caught the ball over 400 feet away, ending the game and Loyola's bid to win the Catholic League crown. The 1968 Baseball team was led by the pitching of Henry Hyde and Dan DelFava, who combined to win fifteen of Loyola's sixteen victories. Noteworthy was Hyde's outstanding strikeout-to-innings pitched ratio of over 2-1 (172 k's in 84 1/3 innings). Offensively, Loyola was led by Mark Rahner and his .439 average. Kevin Murtha powered the Ramblers as their RBI and home run leader, and shared the total hits lead with Steve Dumser, while Nick O'Connor topped the squad in runs scored. And there were others who led the way in the spring of 1968, but in the end, this Hall of Fame team earned its place of honor because it played as a team, a band of brothers, and a season that started out ominously with "Boog" Powell almost ending Jim O'Loughlin's chance at fatherhood ended with a Catholic League North Section Championship and a place in Loyola Academy's storied baseball history.

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