By Marty Farmer
The Riverside Little League District 10U baseball team is one win away from a state tournament appearance. Regardless of what happened against Hinsdale in the sectional championship game July 29 (past deadline) to advance to state, Riverside has already recorded a historic season.
Riverside defeated previously undefeated Hinsdale 7-0 on Monday night at Pierce Park in Hinsdale to keep their postseason drive alive. Brady Vaia's two-run single, Miles Casey's sac fly and Owen Murphy's RBI hit highlighted a four-run sixth inning for Riverside. Brian Twomey contributed a double in the first inning which scored two runs. Winning pitcher Charlie Lyons allowed no runs and no hits over three innings.
"The boys bats were on fire," Riverside head coach Mike Murphy said. "We came out swinging putting the ball in play almost every at-bat. We didn't walk once and we only struck out three times. It's an unbelievable team of 13 kids who all work hard and contribute in big ways on different levels and abilities. It's a fun team to coach."
Hinsdale beat Riverside 9-5 in the teams' first meeting in sectional competition last week. The winner of the teams' rubber match advances to state.
Riverside defeated Manteno 16-6 on Sunday to set up its showdown with Hinsdale. After Manteno jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first, Riverside exploded for 11 runs in the third en route to a 16-6 win.
"Our team has a lot of talented players but their best attribute is they never say die," Murphy said. "They fell behind Manteno 5-0 and then our kids just picked up their play. We went through the batting order almost twice and scored 11 runs."
Previously, Riverside claimed the District 9 championship in dramatic fashion by beating LaGrange 6-5 twice on the same day. After splitting its first two games, Riverside reeled off five consecutive victories to win the district title. According to Murphy, it's the first district title Riverside has ever won other than the 11-and-12 year olds team from 2001.
"Historically, LaGrange and Western Springs have dominated District 9 so for Riverside to win it is huge," Murphy said. "Other than that 2001 team, I couldn't find any district champs from Riverside. Whether the age group has been 9-10, 10-11 or 11-12, Riverside has been getting closer to winning [district] but come up short often by just one game in recent years. We had a couple hundred fans supporting us when we beat LaGrange twice which was unbelievable."
With a sectional berth on the line, Riverside held off a late rally by LaGrange, which scored four runs in the sixth inning to preserve a 6-5 win. Owen Murphy sparked Riverside offensively with two RBIs and two hits, including a key double in the sixth. On the mound, Twomey earned the victory by holding LaGrange hitless over 4 2/3 innings with no earned runs, four walks and nine strikeouts.
With Riverside leading 2-1 in the sixth, both teams came to life. Riverside scored four runs highlighted by Grayson Pacourek's triple and Murphy's aforementioned double to seize a seemingly comfortable 6-1 advantage. However, LaGrange responded with four runs in their half of the inning to make the score 6-5.
"I think the reason our team is doing so well is because we work together," said Owen Murphy, who plays both first and third base for Riverside. "Riverside hasn't gone this far in [the playoffs] in a long time so it's pretty cool. Our fans have been great and really supported us. They think this is amazing and I love it."
In their earlier meeting, Riverside also edged LaGrange 6-5 as Vaia provided a key two-RBI single and Twomey cracked a run-scoring double.
Prior to pulling off its two-game sweep of LaGrange, Riverside squeaked out a 3-2 win against highly regarded Western Springs in district play.