During a 7-5 win over Elmwood Park on Saturday, Riverside-Brookfield softball assistant coach Charlie Stasica succinctly summed up the rivalry between the Bulldogs and Tigers.
“It comes down to this match-up every season,” said Stasica.
Riverside-Brookfield (27-3, 14-1 Metro Suburban Conference) won 2-of-3 games against Elmwood Park last week to clinch the league championship.
After Elmwood Park (18-11, 11-4) took the series opener 4-3 in eight innings on May 11, RB needed to win one of the two remaining games to secure the conference title.
“Honestly, we didn’t play well but Elmwood Park was fantastic,” RB coach Dan Hull said. “Every year we play one-run games with them – it’s just such a rivalry. I admire their coach [Erica Hanrahan] because she always gets the best out of her players.”
The Bulldogs responded with a 10-0 victory in five innings on Friday. Sophomore Kylie O’Connell (10-1) threw a complete game three-hitter and struck out two. Promising freshman Emily Hastings went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs. Becky Mantel (2-for-3, HR, 2 RBIs) and Jessie Hutchens (1-for-3, RBI) also chipped in offensively.
“We really wanted this game because we knew what it meant,” Hutchens said. “We played with a relaxed kind of feeling.”
With the conference race officially decided, the suddenly carefree Bulldogs pulled out a 7-5 victory over Elmwood Park on Saturday. Senior Kristin Kleinmeyer threw four innings, allowing three hits and striking out four to pick up the win.
“It’s definitely been a team effort for us this season,” Kleinmeyer said. “We all get along and just take it one game at a time. Winning conference is an awesome accomplishment, especially for our seniors.”
Hutchens blasted a solo home run in the fourth inning to extend RB’s lead to 4-2. In the fifth inning, Rusen added a two-run shot to deep center.
“Kiley always copies me,” Hutchens said with a laugh. “I knew she really wanted this game too.”
Elmwood Park rallied with three runs in the sixth to pull within 6-5. Brittany Fanella and Danielle Kirschacki provided singles and Danielle McNulty a walk all with the bases loaded and one out. Timely defensive plays by third baseman Rusen (threw runner out at home) and second baseman Megan Landahl (force out at second) quelled the Tigers’ late charge. Riverside-Brookfield added an insurance run in its half of the sixth when Staccy Kabat crushed a ball down the left field line to score Mantel.
“I graduated my whole infield except Jessie Hutchens [shortstop] and Liz Demitro [catcher],” Hull said. “These kids have just stepped right in and played as good or better. We are 27-3 so obviously this hasn’t been a rebuilding year.”