The Riverside-Brookfield baseball team had its hands full keeping Nazareth star Ryan Powers at bay last week. Powers pitched 6 1/3 strong innings and hit a home run and double to hand the Bulldogs a 4-3 loss in the Class 3A Sectional Championship on Saturday.
Nazareth held a seemingly comfortable 4-0 lead, but the Bulldogs (25-13) rallied with three runs in the top of the seventh inning. Nazareth reliever Pat Kelly earned a two-out save to close the door on the Bulldogs’ postseason run.
According to RB first-year head coach Dallas Till, the game’s storyline served as a microcosm of the Bulldogs’ entire season.
“Our M.O. all year was to get down early and fight our way back into games,” he said. “I really wasn’t surprised at all to see us come back against Nazareth, but unfortunately we came up a little short.”
With the exception of a walk to RB third baseman Charlie Morrissey to start the game, the 6-foot-5 Powers didn’t allow a runner to reach base through five innings. With Nazareth up 2-0 and Powers in command on the hill, the Roadrunners tacked on two runs in the bottom of the sixth to build their lead to 4-0. Rob Petrak’ single and Kelly’s sacrifice fly drove in the valuable insurance runs. Powers homered the previous inning.
In the seventh, RB seniors Vito DeRango and Tyler Radek both hit singles to put runners on first and second with no outs. Sophomore CJ Duffek struck out on a pitch in the dirt, but the Nazareth catcher lost the ball and made a bad throw to first, allowing DeRango to score and Duffek to reach first base safely. TJ Bongiorno followed with an infield groundout that brought home Radek to make it a 4-2 score. Andy Suzuki just missed hitting a game-tying homer when he crushed a double to deep left-center. Suzuki’s blast plated Duffek to whittle the Roadrunners’ advantage to 4-3. Kelly came on in relief of Powers and retired two Bulldogs on a strikeout and groundout to end the game.
“Unfortunately, Andy’s hit didn’t go a little further,” said Till. “When we were down 4-0, our guys didn’t give up. I was proud of the character and resolve our players showed.”
Riverside-Brookfield starting pitcher David Tortorici turned in a solid outing. The senior went the distance, allowing three earned runs and four hits with three strikeouts.
Along with fellow seniors JT Evans and Chris James, Tortorici was part of the Bulldogs’ excellent three-man pitching rotation. The RB roster was senior-laden this spring with valuable contributions from DeRango, Morrissey, Radek, Bongiorno, David Skowronski, Sean Brennan and others.
“We achieved a lot this season with 25 wins and making it to a sectional final,” Till said. “We did it with good pitching, defense and small ball. This club didn’t have as much power as RB teams in recent years, so we had to change our identity on offense. I give our players credit for buying into that adjustment.”
The Bulldogs will return Suzuki, Duffek, Dylan Beketic, Ryan Brown and Adam Kuta as the core of next year’s team.