Central Region Senior League Baseball Tournament:Opening ceremonies

Members of the Oglesby Little League baseball team pay tribute to Evan Knoblauch, who passed away July 10 after battling cancer, during the opening ceremonies for the Central Region Senior League Baseball Tournament at Gandolfi Field in Oglesby. Oglesby Little League retired the No. 7 jersey in Knoblauch’s name.

The Knoblauch family has had a trying time after the July 10th passing of 2017 St. Bede graduate Evan Knoblauch.

Friday Evan’s services took place at St. Bede Abbey Church as many members of the community paid their respects.

In Oglesby, the Little League community was paying their respects to the former Oglesby ball player at the opening ceremonies of the Central Region Senior League Baseball Tournament.

Luke Ferrari, president of Oglesby Little League, retired the No. 7 jersey in Knoblauch’s name and flew a gigantic flag of the United States of America with his initials and his number.

“The outpouring of support that the family has had from friends and the community is truly remarkable,” Ferrari said. “It was an honor to be able to do that tonight for the family and for Evan. I’m just grateful that we could do something for him and I’m glad that it turned out really special.”

“We made a lot of phone calls last week to throw this together as quickly as we could. We thought that we had a good opportunity to honor Evan. He’s truly a fighter and for this community, he’s a true inspiration. We wanted to do everything that we could to make it as best as we could. We made call after call to make it as special as we could.”

The now retired No. 7 jersey will not be used by any Oglesby Little League team and there are plans for a jersey, a flag or a symbol of Knoblauch hanging at each Oglesby field.

“We’re going to make it a tradition,” Ferrari said. “As long as I’m here, and I know the guys who were here tonight, will carry it on. I hope we can carry it along longer than that. I spoke to Evan’s parents (Jim and Susan) and everyone knows Evan wore No. 25 at St. Bede.

“His parents said back in his Little League days, Evan wore No. 7. He always wanted that number, so we thought it would be fitting to honor No. 7.”

After Ferrari retired the jersey and everyone present took a moment of silence for Knoblauch, St. Bede coach Bill Booker talked about his former Bruin and what it meant to be a true captain, which Knoblauch was for the Bruins.

Police officers performed the flag ritual and bag pipes were played in Knoblauch’s honor.

“We have to give a big thank you to Tim Trevier,” Ferrari said. “He made a lot of this happen. He had the police connection and he was the main guy getting the police department here to do what they did tonight. It was very cool. He was a big part in this.”

Challenger Game

The ninth annual Challenger Game delighted all as the Challenger League players from Team A and Team B each took an at-bat and showed their base running skills.

“When we walk through the gate with the rest of the players who are playing here in the tournament, it gives you that sense of belonging,” Challenger League director Alicia Hughes said. “Having that sense of belonging is one of my biggest goals for the Challenger players as they are in front of the community doing what everyone else does.

“Being a part of all of this is pretty incredible. I think it’s special for the tournament players too because it opens their eyes.”

Team A saw Jessica, Harley, Keegan, Zack, Jude, Matthew, Ethan, Issac, Bob and Bishop each record a hit and score a run.

Maddie was the lead-off hitter for Team B as she was followed by Maci, Payton, Gabby, Kenzie, Jimmy, Samantha, Jennifer, Greg and Vinnie.

“We’ve grown quite a bit in the last few years,” Hughes said. “One of the biggest things for us has been the addition of the Senior League, which enables the individuals who were in our regular Challenger League to move into the senior division. They can then play as long as they want. That has been really, really good for us. I look forward to that growing.”

Hitting contest

The hitting contest didn’t see many home runs until Michigan’s Luke Aarclema hit back-to-back dingers in the final.

Aarclema earned the hitting contest championship with 26 points in the first round, which tied Wisconsin’s Steve Callahan, and then went on to score 24 in the final.

“It felt pretty good,” Aarclema said. “There were a few pitches I probably shouldn’t have swung at, but I was just trying to hit the ball hard like normal batting practice. I go to the gaps to try to get the offense started in games.

“It was really fun to be able to represent my team and win this.”

The top four scores advanced to the second round, which then provides the winner.

After the first round, Aarclema and Callahan had 26, Indiana’s Colton Learned had 22 and Kentucky’s Harrison Byrd tallied 17.

In the finals, Aarclema’s 24 bested Learned’s 22, Callahan’s 19 and Byrd’s 12.

Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or sports@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.

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