By Marty Farmer
The scouting report on Riverside-Brookfield junior Ryan Cermak is that his statistics speak louder than his words. When interviewed, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Riverside resident tends to give concise yet insightful responses.
Since his baseball resume speaks for itself, his economy of words and calm demeanor actually complement his leadership.
In terms of stats, Cermak is hitting .403 with a .446 on-base percentage and a .681 slugging percentage. He has hit a home run, four triples and nine doubles with 25 RBIs and 22 runs scored.
For all his prowess at the plate, Cermak is even better as the Bulldogs' ace of the pitching rotation. Facing 188 batters over 46.2 innings, Cermak has not allowed an earned run. That's not a typo. The hard-throwing righty has not given up a single earned run and only six unearned runs overall.
He has a 0.00 ERA with 81 strikeouts and 18 walks plus a .879 WHIP. Cermak is holding hitters to a .140 batting average.
"Ryan's physical impact on the game on the mound and at the plate are obvious keys to our success," RBHS coach Dallas Till said. "We have a chance to compete with and potentially beat anyone we play when he pitches.
"His humble demeanor and leadership qualities have been equally as important to our team morale, cohesion and success," Till added. "Ryan leads by example and respects the game. He always does the right thing on and off the field."
Along with leadership from seniors like Jarod Turina, John Kosner and Howie Hatton, Cermak has played a major role in the Bulldogs' success this spring.
"A lot of us are really good friends who have been playing together since we were little," Cermak said. "Every day we all want to get better and win the next game."
Mission accomplished in that regard. RBHS is 22-4 with a 15-2 record in the Metro Suburban Blue. Currently, The Bulldogs are on an 11-game winning streak and the cusp of clinching a conference championship.
"We currently control our own destiny in terms of the conference championship with two games to play against Wheaton Academy," Till said." If we win one of the two games, we are outright champions. If we lose both, Illiana Christian would win the conference title."
There's a good chance Cermak will pitch one of the games against Wheaton Academy. After all, he's been the Bulldogs' go-to guy all season.
For all of his success, Cermak keeps baseball simple in terms of his approach.
"When I'm hitting, I just want to get runners over and get them in," he said. "Defensively, I think to myself nothing is getting by me. As far as pitching, my approach depends on the batter. If he's crowding the plate I'll throw in; if he's backed off the plate, I'll throw junk outside."
Of course, his approach works so well because of his talent. Cermak throws three plus pitches, including a fastball (about 90 miles per hour), curveball and changeup.
His baseball ability and intangibles have attracted college programs. Cermak ended the recruiting process early when he committed to Illinois State University.
"Ryan has the potential to be a standout at the next level," Till said. "I'm pretty sure he will end up pitching for them but that will be a decision the staff at ISU has to make. Ryan is capable of contributing as a position player as well, so I will be interested to see how things play out for him in college."
During the offseason, Cermak plays travel baseball with the Illinois Hawks and Cangelosi Sparks.
At RBHS, Cermak is a multi-sport athlete. Last winter, he played on the basketball team which finished 19-11 and 10-2 as co-champions in the Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division.
"I love the coaches, players and playing basketball at RB," Cermak said. "It's a great environment because everybody is so competitive."
Looking ahead to the Class 4A baseball state playoffs, the Bulldogs are the sixth seed in the St. Laurence Sectional. The sectional is stacked with highly-regarded Chicago Catholic League teams like the host Vikings, Brother Rice, Mount Carmel and St. Rita. West Suburban Silver power Lyons Township is seeded third.
The Bulldogs begin the playoffs against the winner of Kenwood/Proviso East on Thursday, May 24 (4:30 p.m.) in the semifinals of the Mount Carmel Regional. With a win, RBHS will likely face the host Caravan in the regional final on Saturday, May 26 at 11 a.m.
"Our success can largely be attributed to all of our guys accepting their roles and making the most of opportunities when they arise," Till said. "We have had multiple guys admirably fill in at different positions and various spots in the batting order. Our guys have been unselfish in regards to playing time and have supported whatever the team needs."