ELMHURST – York baseball has proven its worth in the regular season by winning two West Suburban Silver titles in the past three years, but the Dukes have struggled to make some noise in the postseason.
The Dukes have won 22 or more games in four of the past five years under coach Dave Kalal, but York hasn't won a regional since 1996. A 3-2 loss against Willowbrook on May 29 extended that drought.
"We're trying to make a name for ourselves," Kalal said after the loss. "Two conference championships in three years, but we need to start winning regionals. We need to start winning in the playoffs to start gaining some respect from people not in our conference, but around the other areas. We're doing that, but it's about the process. This is a long-term plan. It's nothing short-term."
York entered the postseason having won 14 of its final 16 regular season games, but the Dukes were stifled by Willowbrook pitcher Jake Cady. Cady retired the first 12 batters he faced and gave up just three hits in the game. The Dukes managed just two unearned runs in the sixth inning and those came after Willowbrook already led 3-0.
Seth Dvorak pitched well for York. The senior gave up just four hits and two walks in a complete-game effort.
"That sixth inning we battled back and got ourselves back in the game, but I think it was a little too late by then," Kalal said. "We needed to do something early in the game to calm our nerves a bit and kind of take them out of their game a bit."
The loss marked the end for seniors like Dvorak, standout first baseman and pitcher Anthony Santos, Niall O'Brien and Mitch Miner. Santos especially was key for the Dukes as the team's top pitcher and hitter. He was 1-for-3 with an RBI in his final high school game.
However, plenty of younger players saw the field on a regular basis so York will have a deeper core to build on next year than the three returners that played this season.
"We got five juniors in the lineup offensively so we'll be OK," Kalal said. "We'll bounce back and come out and compete this summer. We'll learn some things about our kids who are going to be seniors and our kids who are going to be juniors. We're going to see what we're made of."
Dvorak and Santos were all-conference in the West Suburban Silver along with juniors Nolan Spencer and Kyle Coughlin.
"This is a long-term deal for us, our kids know that," Kalal said. "We got a good group of seniors. They'll be missed, but the clock will keep ticking."
Willowbrook 3, York 2
• Seth Dvorak: 7 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 K, 2 BB, 4 H
• Nolan Spencer: 1-for-3, R
• Anthony Santos: 1-for-3, RBI