Riverside B.    8
Elmwood Park 1

The Riverside-Brookfield baseball team clinched an 8-1 victory over Elmwood Park on Friday afternoon before the game was called in the sixth inning due to lightning in the area.

The host Tigers conceded the game moments after a lightning detection horn blared throughout the campus. Symbolically, the alarm may be remembered as a herald of “better times ahead” for the resurgent Bulldogs (9-10, 3-1 Metro Suburban Conference), who have won five of six games after a shaky 4-9 start.

The icing on RB’s victory cake was provided by starter Joe Ruge’s impressive four innings of work. Ruge allowed one hit and struck out six. The reigning conference MVP and Bulldogs’ pitching ace threw “free and easy” in his first extended outing since experiencing tendonitis in his elbow this season.

“I felt great, felt strong – back to normal,” said Ruge, who was on a 50-pitch count. “I was expecting to play first base, and all of a sudden I got the call. I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll go, that’s fine.'”

Left-hander Jon Prihodka threw two innings of effective relief, striking out the side in the fifth.

“It was really nice to see Joe back on the mound,” RB coach Mike Ziroli said. “He’s an efficient pitcher. We are hoping he’s on track to coming back as a regular starter for us.”

John Hearlston (2 hits, 2 RBIs) and Nick Marra (2 hits) led the RB offense. The Bulldogs scored a pair of runs in the first on a throwing error from the Tigers and an RBI-single by Hearlston that scored Matt Kenahan. After an RBI-double by Marra (.342) scored Hearlston, who walked to start the third, the Bulldogs broke the game open with three more runs in the fourth to push their lead to 6-0. Hearlston’s bloop single to right field allowed Matt Scott to cross home plate, capping off the productive frame.

“I went up there looking for a fastball like every other at-bat,” Hearlston said. “We started off a little cold this season, but I think we’re starting to hit and gain more confidence as a team.”

Riverside-Brookfield also picked up an 8-0 win over Elmwood Park on Thursday (April 23). Starter Zak Martell (2-2, 3.62 ERA) gave up just two hits and struck out 10. Scott Rysz (3-for-4, RBI) paced the offense, assisted by two hits apiece from Kevin Onischuk, Scott and Hearlston. Dave Lutz also crushed a triple that produced to RBIs in the game.

The Bulldogs maintained their momentum with a 6-5 non-conference win against Westmont on Saturday. Junior left-hander Alex Brown (3-0, 4.12 ERA), who helped fill the pitching void during Ruge’s injury, tossed a three-hitter against the Sentinels. Ruge (.400, 2 HRs, 20 RBIs) had a two-run homer, while Hearlston finished with three RBIs.

“We are doing pretty good,” RB coach Mike Ziroli said. “I think we are going to be fine in our conference, and we’re getting ready for regionals and sectionals down the line.”