Sean Burnette, of St. Laurence, drives in the go head run against Oak Forest for summer league semifinal regional action at Richards, July 16th, 2014, in Oak Lawn. | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media
More results, pairings
Updated: July 17, 2014 2:14AM
It’s John Riordan and Jack Cavanaugh’s chance at St. Laurence now, and they don’t intend to waste it.
The Vikings have turned the page after graduating one of the state’s best senior classes, which included Brad Wood, Mike Kornacker and T.J. Marik.
But St. Laurence is in a familiar spot, playing for a summer regional title for the fourth straight season after using a big sixth inning to beat Oak Forest 7-2 Thursday at Richards.
The Vikings (12-2) meet Chicago Christian (15-2), a 4-2 winner over Mount Carmel in the other semifinal, at 10 a.m. Thursday in the regional final. The winner advances to the Phil Lawler Summer Classic Elite Eight, which gets underway Monday at Benedictine University and North Central College.
Riordan got out of a two-on, two-out jam in the top of the sixth against Oak Forest (6-6), and the Vikings broke a 2-2 tie with five runs in the bottom of the inning.
“I knew I had to throw strikes,” said Riordan, who struck out the first batter he faced to end the Bengals’ threat. “My curveball wasn’t really working. It was more the slider to get out of the jam.”
“He’s a guy we obviously depend on,” St. Laurence coach Pete Lotus said of the veteran, who also saved Monday’s 3-2 win over Marist.
Riordan started at third base Wednesday after playing around the infield and also in left field this spring. Outfielder Sean Burnette (2-for-3, RBI) and second baseman Frank Greco also are back with experience, but elsewhere there are new faces.
One is Cavanaugh (2-for-3), who drove in three runs, and allowed just one run (unearned) over the first four innings. Another is senior shortstop Nick Verta (2-for-3), who hit a two-run double in the sixth and who sat out in the spring after transferring from Mount Carmel.
“It started to come around a little more lately,” Cavanaugh said of his hitting. “But I’m just glad to be in the lineup.”
Cavanaugh is part of a larger trend.
“We’ve gotten better throughout the summer, which is a great sign,” Lotus said. “It’s different because those guys were maybe a little intimidated, waiting in the wings ... a difficult place for a lot of them. But since those (seniors) have left, we’ve really done a great job — a really hard-working group.”
Oak Forest coach Ron Czarnecki liked the effort of his team in general and of starting and losing pitcher Drew Dominick in particular.
“This is a 2-2 game going into the bottom of the sixth,” Czarnecki said. “We made an 0-2 pitch that was on the outside corner that we wanted off (the plate) and a 1-2 pitch that was too much (over) the heart of the plate that changed the whole complexion of the game.
“Other than that, it was a battle. I thought he pitched great.”