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Picking the Metro Suburban Conference baseball champion this spring is kind of like picking winners in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament. Anything can happen - just ask Duke and Missouri.
Regarding the Metro Suburban march to the title though, Riverside-Brookfield plans on hanging around for the long haul despite legitimate arguments for defending champion Illiana Christian, Glenbard South and Ridgewood as potential league champs when all is said and done this season.
"There's a great deal of parity in our league," RB coach Dallas Till said. "Glenbard South returns a solid junior class and would be my preseason pick to win the league. Illiana Christian should field an extremely tough team. Ridgewood also returns a number of players.
"We are in a slight rebuilding mode with a numbers of key starters lost to graduation, but our goals are always to win conference, regionals and sectionals."
RB graduated Vito DeRango, Charlie Morrissey, Tyler Radek, TJ Bongiorno, JT Evans, David Tortorici and several other players instrumental to the team's solid 2011 campaign.
The Bulldogs welcome back several players from last year's regional championship squad, which went 25-13-1 overall and 10-5 in conference good for third place behind Illiana Christian and Glenbard South. Junior shortstop CJ Duffek, senior first baseman/catcher Andy Suzuki, senior middle infielder Dylan Beketic, senior third baseman/outfielder Jon Logli and senior outfielder Luis Verdin will be called upon to provide plenty of leadership and ability. Suzuki, who also played linebacker on the football team, provided the key two-RBI single in the Bulldogs' 3-0 regional final win over Gordon Tech last year.
"I'm expecting big things from Duffek after an outstanding sophomore season," Till said. "Suzuki is looking to rebound from an injury-plagued junior season. Verdin and Logli are locked in tight battles for starting positions."
Considering that pitching is the name of the game at virtually any level, the Bulldogs possess several strong arms. Seniors Ryan Brown (left hander) and Adam Kuta are the Bulldogs front end rotation hurlers. Sophomore Will Kincanon also figures to make an impact on the mound.
"We should be a solid defensive club," Till said. "We don't have overpowering pitching and we will need to generate offense. They key for us will be how well our juniors acclimate to the speed of the game at the varsity level, and their overall impact on our team."
Before entering Metro Suburban Conference play, the Bulldogs will face several tough nonconference opponents including Nazareth, Gordon Tech, St. Joseph, St. Ignatius, De La Salle, Wheaton North, Wheaton Academy and Montini.
"I am excited for the season and so are the players," Till said. "Our schedule is loaded to prepare us for the state tournament."