After claiming the top spot in the Suburban Prairie (East) Conference the past two years, it is safe to assume that the Riverside Brookfield Bulldogs have a large bull’s eye painted on their backs.
Their mission to ‘threepeat’ will even be more difficult this season considering the Bulldogs (19-16, 9-3) boast only two seniors that saw regular playing time last year. RB coach Dan Monahan is realistic about his ballclub’s chances, but is optimistic his players will rise to the challenge.
“There is no doubt that it will be difficult for us to enjoy the success we have had the last two years,” he said. “It doesn’t help that the conference will be tougher this year because Lemont is now in our division and Westmont should be good as well. Overall, there will be a lot more competition for us, so this could be a rebuilding year or we could really do something significant, it is really up to the guys.”
Despite so many questions, Monahan will have some seniors to count on, starting with catcher Russ Kesman and pitcher/third baseman Johnny Saucedo. Both Kesman and Saucedo were regular starters last season, and along with fellow senior Mark Gorman who will play centerfield and leadoff the batting order, will be captains. Monahan will also look to seniors Steve Wilhelm, who will pitch, left fielder Tim Davis and third baseman John Grimaldi to be major contributors. One pre-season question mark for the Bulldogs is senior walk-on Frankie Fornaris. The left-handed pitcher impressed Monahan in the off-season, however, and will be looked to bolster the Bulldog rotation. The real pressure, however, is on the RB junior class. There are 15 juniors and only seven seniors on the team, thus making the team’s success reliant on mostly inexperienced players, a fact not lost on Monahan.
“Outside of Kesman and Saucedo, the rest of the guys don’t have much varsity experience at all,” he said. “It really is going to come down to if the guys can fill the spaces we need filled and play good baseball. Still, we need to get a couple of games under our belt to see what we can do.”
RB junior pitcher Tim LeBeau, who had six starts as a sophomore, is one of the necessary cogs in RB machine chugging toward another conference championship. Fellow juniors Chris Ely at shortstop and Cory Tone at second will guard the middle behind LeBeu. Monahan is still unsure at this point, however, where juniors Kyle Kiburz, Tyler Gasaway, Anthony Ferraro, Sean Cloherty, Eric Schumacher, Mike Peloso, Diego Cuevas, Drew Hunt, Rob Orlowski, Nick Kedzuch, Chris Allen and Brandt Langosch will fit into the lineup.
“These first few games are really the time for my junior class to shine,” Monahan said. “Currently, right field is still open and somebody has to step up and win the starting position. To be honest, it is really up to our junior class to see where we will go this year.”
RB didn’t get off to a good start. The Bulldogs were swept by Mt. Carmel 14-0 and 5-3 in a season opening doubleheader on Saturday. In nightcap loss, Kesman went 2-for-3 with an RBI.
The team travels to Morris on Saturday for another doubleheader.