Runners on first and third with nobody out in the bottom of the third inning.
That’s the promising scenario-turned missed opportunity that the Riverside-Brookfield baseball team will most remember regarding its 4-0 loss to Clemente in the Class 3A Guerin Regional final at Triton College on Saturday.
Considering sophomore pitchers Will Kincanon (RB) and Anthony Justiniano (Clemente) were locked in a duel, the Bulldogs’ best scoring threat came when C.J. Duffek led off the third with a single and stolen base. Tom Leary followed with a bunt single to put runners on the corners when Kincanon stepped to the plate. The Bulldogs’ No. 3 hitter crushed a line drive out to Clemente third baseman Roberto Berdecia, who promptly fired a strike to first baseman David Feliciano, catching Leary off the bag in a timely 5-3 double play for the Wildcats.
“That was definitely a pivotal point in the game,” RB coach Dallas Till said. “If that ball gets through we score a run and have two runners on base which would have changed the whole complexion of the game. Unfortunately, we also made a couple of errors and didn’t get any timely hitting.”
Clemente carried the momentum of the bang-bang double play into the next frame, scoring the first run of the game on Berdecia’s single that plated Jerimiah Figueroa. The Wildcats extended their lead to 3-0 in the fifth inning when RB left fielder Luke Keller misplayed a fly ball off the bat of Yerbis Arias that scored two runs.
RB offered a final scoring threat only to come up empty in their half of the fifth. Andy Suzuki and Leary both singled to put runners on first and second with two outs, however the Bulldogs failed to push across any runs.
“Everybody is kind of jumpy in a big game,” said Suzuki, who had two hits and a walk. “I tried to just be relaxed and not press too much at the plate.”
The Bulldogs’ defensive gem of the day came in the sixth when Keller threw out a Clemente runner at the plate for the third out. The Wildcats’ speed-based offense tacked on a run in the seventh courtesy of Berdecia’s second RBI.
Four runs proved more than enough offensive support for the poised 6-foot, 160-pound Justiniano, who threw a complete game six-hitter.
Clemente (22-9) moves on to play St. Joseph in a sectional semifinal at Glenbard South. The host Raiders clash with Nazareth in the other semifinal of a tough sectional.
As for RB, the relatively young club produced a solid campaign, finishing 23-13 overall, including a 14-4 record and runner-up finish to Glenbard South in the Metro Suburban Conference.
RB returns ace pitchers Kincanon and Alex Nenadovic along with other key contributors like Duffek, Keller, Garvey, Matt Quintana, Jack Scott, Joe Duffy and Alex Spirios.
“I think we can run conference [next season],” Kincanon said. “I don’t think we should lose. We have a bunch of players who gained valuable experience so we’re set for next year.”