After coaching Elmwood Park to a 109-59 record over five years, first-year Riverside-Brookfield baseball head coach Dallas Till will revisit the Tigers in an important Metro Suburban Conference three-game series this week.
“Elmwood Park is a special place for me,” Till said. “They have a scrappy team, but our goal is to sweep the series.”
With his team trailing Elmwood Park (3-0) and Glenbard South (4-2) in the conference race, Till certainly won’t spend much time going down memory lane this week. His focus is getting the Bulldogs (6-6-1, 3-3) on their own winning track.
“We’re really trying to get our players to take it one game at a time,” Till said. “Our pitching has been pretty good. We need more guys to step up offensively.”
Riverside-Brookfield hoped to sweep Fenton last week but settled for taking two of three games. The Bulldogs won the rubber match of the series 11-2 over the Bison at Redmond Park in Bensenville on Thursday. Starter Chris James picked up the win by allowing just the two runs over six innings. Reliever Matt Riedl struck out two in the final frame to close the game.
TJ Bongiorno (4 RBIs) hit a pair of triples – the first one coming with the bases loaded in the fifth inning – which triggered a five-run frame. Bongiorno’s other three-bagger came in the sixth, driving in another run. Tyler Radek, Vito Derango, Charlie Morrissey (hitting over .400 this season) also led the offense.
On April 13, the Bulldogs trailed Fenton 6-2 in the top of the sixth. RB rallied with five runs off five hits and two errors by the Bison to take a 7-6 advantage. After Fenton tied the game at 7-7, RB responded with two runs in the seventh inning to take a 9-7 lead. Reliever Adam Kuta allowed one run in two innings for the Bulldogs, while Radek’s solo homer and Morrissey’s hot bat paced RB.
The Bison edged RB 3-2 in the series opener on April 12. Left-hander David Tortorici was pitching well with a 2-1 lead, but Fenton scored two runs in the seventh to pull off the comeback victory.
“We let one slip away,” Till said. “[The loss] hurts our chances to win the conference, but there is a lot of baseball to be played.”
Till points to the Bulldogs’ solid rotation of Tortorici, James and JT Evans coupled with Kuta’s quality work out of the bullpen as good sources for an improved stretch run.
“I have confidence in all three of our starters,” Till said, “and Kuta has been a shutdown closer.”
With the lineup admittedly a work in progress, Till has moved players around the order in hopes of finding more production. Morrissey has been a revelation offensively, hitting 10 doubles this season, four short of tying Matt Scott’s school record (14 doubles). Derango has been coming around at the plate while Radek provides speed and power.
The Bulldogs also hope to welcome back sophomore outfielder CJ Duffek and first baseman Andy Suzuki (both out with injuries).