Thad Gatton steps down as Oak Forest coach

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Thad Gatton, who compiled a 121-48 mark in over five years guiding Oak Forest’s baseball program, resigned Friday.

The Bengals finished 25-11 this season, falling to host Joliet Catholic on Wednesday in the Class 3A regional semifinals.

“I want to spend more time with my family,” Gatton said. “I made the decision in March — March 14 to be exact. I was heading to 6 a.m. practice and I got a phone call from my wife that she was in a head-on [car] collision with our [twin] daughters. It was a frantic phone call and it put things in perspective. I still love coaching and love standing in the third-base coach’s box managing. But I love my family more.”

The Bengals won at least 20 games four times and compiled three conference and three regional championships during Gatton’s tenure.

The highlight occurred in 2011 when Oak Forest, led by Kyle Funkhouser, Tim Barry and Bobby Sheppard, advanced to the Class 3A state championship.

The Bengals suffered an 11-3 loss to Kaneland in the title game.

Gatton is just the third coach in the program’s history, following Andy Scianna and Ron Czarnecki.

“It was an honor and privilege to coach at Oak Forest,” said Gatton, who will remain at the school as a teacher. “I’m looking forward for the first time in 18 years to not coach and just spend time with my family. Oak Forest baseball will be fine.”

The Bengals return five starters next season — Drew Dominick, Kevin Johnson, Joe Muller, Dan Gordon and Jim Smyth — and welcome a sophomore class that was crowned conference champions.

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