The Bensenville Summer Slugfest for kids age 8 and under allows the coach to throw 5 pitches to his own team and get out of the way when the ball is hit.

Although the Forest Park kids hit off a tee all year, the little league board thought they had the kids that could learn coach pitch in a couple weeks and compete with the all star teams from other towns even if they have playing coach pitch all year.

After four intense games of pool play,the Forest Park All-Stars did not record a single strike out, and scored 64 runs to lead all 10 teams in the tournament.

While the offense has been somewhat of a surprise from the beginning, the defense continued to improve with each game. Game 1 and Game 2 were played in 100+ heat indexes and there wasn’t a tree to be found.

Forest park gave up 22 runs in the first game and 12 in the second. As the temperature went down, the defense heated up, holding Wood Dale to 7 in game 3 and Bartlett to 9 in the last game. The left side of the infield is defended by Evan Braniff at Third and Nathan Blazenko at Short Stop. These two ball players have anchored the Red Sox IN Forest Park Little League for the last 2 years and have combined to make plays that 12 year olds are still trying to get right. Blazenko made a diving stop in the Saturday game against Bartlett that surely would have been a web gem on SportsCenter if there was a camera rolling. Braniff, a natural First baseman, has played most of the tournament at third base, but not always. His dependable glove and knowledge of the game at any position on the field has been a valuable asset as injuries and a flu bug has forced him to move around and play multiple positions throughout the tournament. On offense these two are tied for the lead in extra base hits (4) and hits (16) and Nathan is tied for team lead in runs scored with Matt Novak with 12, Braniff is a close second, crossing home 11 times.

Forest Park finally met their match in the final game of pool play. Bartlett and Forest Park both swept the other three teams and met on Saturday with a shot at the championship on the line. They battled to a 3-3 tie after three innings. Bartlett broke it open in the 4th with 5 runs, which would end up being the difference in the final, 9-4. The team ended up with a 4th place finish, which is and incredible feat considering they only 6 practices to prepare. For being only eight years old, these kids gelled into a very good team. It will be exciting to watch them grow as both a team and individuals through these exciting years of little league baseball.

For more information about Forest Park Little League, please visit Winter workouts are right after the New Year and early registration is in February. The league needs more kids to come out and play. What can be nicer to watch on a summer evening, then seeing local kids competing in America’s pastime?

Photos by Mike Racanelli