While advancing past the sectional round of the Class 3A State playoffs has been a stumbling block for the Riverside-Brookfield softball team, the red-hot Bulldogs roll into this week’s Glenbard South Sectional brimming with confidence.
RB (26-7) has won nine games in a row – 14 of 16 overall – highlighted by an 11-0 dismantling of Kennedy in the RB Regional championship game on Saturday.
Outfielder Becky Mantel slugged a two-run homer in the first inning to get the ball rolling against Kennedy at Veterans Park in North Riverside. The round-tripper was Mantel’s 11th on the season.
In their postseason opener, the Bulldogs rocked Hubbard 12-0 to thoroughly dominate their Public League guests at the regional.
“Our offense has really been coming through,” said Mantel, who has committed to play softball at Radford University. “We’re getting timely hits, being smart on the basepaths, and we’re playing good defense. I think beating some good teams at the end of the [regular] season helped us a lot.”
In the second inning, RB consolidated Mantel’s opening frame bomb with six runs to push out to an 8-0 advantage. Kiley Rusen cracked a two-run triple, along with RBI hits from Jasmin Castaneda, Emily Hastings, Ashlee Haugh and Kelly Ely.
“At the beginning of the season, we had trouble with timely hitting,” Hastings said. “[Today] we had those hits. For us to win the sectional, we need to keep supporting each other.”
On the pitching end of the equation, senior Kylie O’Connell has been lights out for RB. She improved to 19-7 on the season, allowing just two hits and striking out nine Kennedy hitters in five efficient innings of work.
“Kylie’s movement and speed on her pitches have improved through the season,” said Hastings, the Bulldogs’ catcher. “She has an amazing changeup and a couple of killer pitches.”
After the game, RB received the regional championship plague. A spirited rendition of Happy Birthday delivered by the players to RB assistant coach Mike Schwab added to the feel good vibe of the Bulldogs’ late season surge.
“I feel like we have as good a chance as ever [at RB] to get past the sectional,” RB head coach John Vermillion said. “Kylie is pitching as well as I have ever seen her throw. If we keep playing like we have been [the past three weeks], we can compete with anybody
The Bulldogs (26-7) meet St. Francis on Thursday (4:30 p.m.) at Glenbard South, while the host Raiders take on Nazareth today (May 30, 4:30 p.m.). The winners advance to Saturday’s 11 a.m. sectional final in Glen Ellyn.