Community rallies around Oakton after first World Series win
It’s a good time to be an Oakton Community College baseball player.
The newly crowned Division 111 champions are the toast of the northern suburbs and the NJCAA universe after rallying past Tyler Junior College 14-11 in Tennessee last month.
The win ends the Apaches’ streak of four straight national championships and cements the Owls’ rise as one of the country’s best junior college programs. All without so much as being able to offer a single scholarship.
Still, plenty of local players have come to view the Oakton campus as the place to be in terms of keeping their career moving forward.
“What makes Oakton successful is we convince players to come for the exposure,” head coach Bill Fratto told the Chicago Tribune. “If they move on, I did my job.”
The Owls have won at least 30 games in each of its last 10 seasons over Fratto’s 13 years with the program. The team came within just a win of matching this spring's glory in 2012 and 2015.
Fratto is quick to point out none of it could have happened without all the local contributions. Danny Sullivan (Palatine), Lucas Karz (Prospect), Timo Schau (Maine South) and Tommy Gertner (Glenbrook North), who was the starting pitcher in the title game, all prominently figured into the mix.
“To be a national champ, you have to be something extra, and they were,” Fratto said. “They set the example.”
Gertner, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound lefty, threw just over seven innings and struck out six in the title game. He is now sorting through offers from the likes of Old Dominion, Georgia Southern and Western Michigan.
His face and story have become legend around the Skokie campus.
“I was at the grocery store wearing an Oakton shirt, and a few people walked up to me and said, ‘Congratulations on the season,’” Gertner told the Tribune. “A lot of other people have been congratulating me.”
Oakton has also recently been saluted at a Schaumburg Boomers baseball game and at Arlington Park horse-racing track.