Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL


June 10, 2014

Ohnesorges follow through for their father

ALTAMONT — Some dads might ask their kids for a new leather wallet or simple necktie for their birthday, but Rich Ohnesorge had higher expectations for his twin daughters.

His present required much more effort and his daughters couldn't get it alone.

Altamont's Ohnesorge twins needed their friends' help because their dad wanted to watch his girls play softball in East Peoria on his birthday, which was Friday — the day of the Class 1A state semifinals.

Delivering their dad's wish was hard to imagine when he told them over breakfast, a month and a half ago, in the thick of the Indians' season. Seniors Lauren and Madison Ohnesorge couldn't picture it, but 15 games and 38 days after losing to Effingham 5-1 in late April, they jogged onto the EastSide Centre field for their state semifinal game, making his wish come true.

“I was overjoyed that we actually got there and could give that to our father,” Madison Ohnesorge said.

The next day, the Indians lifted the state championship trophy with a come-from-behind win over Campbell Hill Trico. Rich's daughters were among the queens of Class 1A, celebrating with their teammates in a pile on the field after recording the last out.

The Indians lined up to receive their first-place medals, then got their hands on Altamont's first state championship trophy in school history. But finding their dad, the man who first exposed them to the championship stage, for a postgame group hug was high on their to-do list.

“I didn't even see them coming,” Rich said. “Lauren came running through the crowd and just about knocked me over. She caught me by surprise and Madison was two feet behind her.”

Thirty-one years ago, Rich was a sophomore right fielder on Beecher City's second-place baseball team. He turned 16 years old on the day of his team's first state tournament game in 1983, when the tournament was played in Springfield and included a quarterfinal round.

The IHSA featured a two-class system in 1983 and only the first- and second-place teams brought home trophies. Beecher City placed second to Aurora Central Catholic.

Beecher City's 1983 team drew comparisons to this season's Altamont squad, Rich said, in that many of the players had been teammates since little league ball.

But the results were different. Madison and Lauren “one-upped” their dad by wearing first-place medals around their necks. Rich brought his second-place medal with him to East Peoria this weekend.

“Right before we even got to state, he said, 'You realize you have to win to beat me. If you tie, you might as well not have gone,'” Lauren Ohnesorge said.

Getting to East Peoria was not only Altamont's goal but a personal motivation for the sisters, who noticed how their dad's smile changed by each postseason win.

“Every single time we would win a postseason game, his smile just seemed to grow bigger and bigger and when we won our first game at state, we ran at him and gave him a big hug,” Lauren said. “You could feel the emotion in his shoulders. It was like his joy transferred to me and Madi.”

Rich made his daughters a pancake breakfast — chocolate chips specifically for Madison — on the Saturday morning of Altamont's regional championship game against Stew-Stras/Windsor.

He made them breakfast every weekend morning during the season, but May 24 was a little different. Rich dusted off an old CD slideshow that Beecher City gave to the players on the 25th anniversary of the 1983 season and showed it to his daughters.

The images were examples of what it looked liked to reach the big stage, albeit the 1980s version.

“They had little snap shots that weren’t very good that they had to cut and paste in the CD,” Rich said. “Hopefully (Altamont) gets something better than that.”

The seed was planted in the sisters' heads in eighth grade that they could reach the state tournament, like their dad did in 1983. As sophomores, Madison and Lauren traveled, with their dad, to the the Amateur Softball Association state tournament in Springfield and stopped by the stadium Rich played in to chase a title.

“I was trying to show them what they were working for,” Rich said.

Madison remembers thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is the state tournament. This is how the atmosphere is supposed to be.” But nothing compares to actually participating.

The exposure to the atmosphere and knowing what to expect helped Lauren and Madison when they arrived at the EastSide Centre for practice on Thursday and throughout the two games.

They weren't intimidated by the fanfare or all of the large signage reminding them where they were and what they were playing for. It was almost normal.

“It felt like just another tournament,” Madison said. “It didn't have much more pressure.”

Rich, admittedly not a nervous player but an anxious parent, couldn't stand still during his daughters' games this weekend.

Lauren did her best to calm his nerves, smashing a home run in the second inning of the Indians' 3-1 win against Sciota West Prairie on Friday.

“I was a little worried, but the home run took care of it,” Rich said.

Just icing on his birthday cake.

Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or alex.mcnamee@effinghamdailynews.com.


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