For the second-straight season, the Riverside-Brookfield baseball team fell one victory shy of advancing to its first baseball supersectional in school history. The Bulldogs’ bid for postseason history derailed when top-seeded Nazareth downed RB 6-1 on Saturday in the Class 3A Nazareth Sectional final.
The host Roadrunners broke a tight ballgame wide open with a five-run fifth inning to knock RB (22-13-2) out of the playoffs. Nazareth (28-9) sent the Bulldogs packing with a 13-5 victory in a sectional final last year.
Saturday’s game, originally scheduled for a 10 a.m. start, didn’t begin until 4 p.m. due to inclement weather
With the score tied at 1-1, Nazareth centerfielder Bryan McCray hit a two-run single with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Anthony Baldassano (triple, 2 RBIs) and Michael Barajas (RBI single) extended the Roadrunners’ lead to 6-1 with clutch hits both coming on full counts. Nazareth starter Patrick Kelly (8-1) threw a complete game, allowing seven hits while fanning four.
Tyler Radek went 2-for-4 with an RBI triple for RB. Vito DeRango and Andy Suzuki had two hits apiece for the Bulldogs. Riverside-Brookfield scored its lone run when Radek smacked a triple to bring home DeRango, who reached base via a single. Riverside-Brookfield starter Matt Kenahan was effective through four innings, holding the high-powered Roadrunners to just one hit.
“I thought we played really well,” RB coach Mike Ziroli said. “We had a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the fifth, and we had baserunners on all day. Unfortunately, we just couldn’t get those key hits when we needed them.”
The Bulldogs advanced to Saturday’s sectional title game by edging Lake View 2-1 last Thursday (June 3) in sectional semifinal action at Nazareth. After eliminating Lake View from the 2009 playoffs courtesy of Joe Ruge’s dramatic grand slam for a 9-5 win, the Bulldogs’ hero this time around against the Wildcats was RB pitching ace Alex Brown. The senior left-hander allowed an earned run and four hits and struck out seven, notching his ninth complete game this season. Third baseman Charlie Morrissey and outfielder Billy VandeMerkt each drove in a run to pace the Bulldogs’ offense. DeRango added a double, while Matt Scott, Radek and Brown all contributed singles against the Wildcats.
After a 1-7-2 start, the Bulldogs won 21 of 27 games the rest of the season. With a 12-3 Metro Suburban Conference record, RB finished league runner-up behind league newcomer Illiana Christian. The Bulldogs also won a regional championship.
“I think we had a successful season,” Ziroli said. “Losing [pitcher/first baseman] Hugh Berglind was a huge loss for us. We still battled our way to another sectional championship game.”
Alex Cebular, Brown, Scott, Kenahan and DeRango were All-Metro Suburban Conference selections. Brown (8-3, 1.92 ERA, school record 142 strikeouts) and Scott (.519, 41 RBI) had outstanding senior campaigns.
Ziroli also welcomed in new varsity assistant coaches Dallas Till and Mark Ruge. Pitcher David Tortorici, DeRango, Radek and Morrissey return next season plus 10 other Bulldogs with varsity experience.