Six outs. That’s how tantalizingly close the Riverside-Brookfield High School baseball team came to moving on to a supersectional appearance in the Class 3A playoffs.
The Bulldogs led sectional host Nazareth 3-1 entering the bottom of the sixth on May 29, but the Roadrunners rallied with five runs in the sixth inning off RBHS junior ace Will Kincanon to pull off a dramatic 6-3 victory.
RBHS centerfielder CJ Duffek (2-for-3) powered the Bulldogs’ auspicious start with a home run to straight away center in the third extending their lead to 2-0.
Making a second consecutive postseason start off the heels of his 1-0 no-hit gem against Montini in the RBHS Regional final, Kincanon struggled in the sixth. The Roadrunners loaded the bases with no outs. After a sac fly drew Nazareth within 3-2, Jake Bartels (2-for-4) smacked a three-run double just inside the left field line to give the Roadrunners the lead for good at 5-3. Nazareth tacked on another run off left-handed reliever Matt Quintana to make the score 6-3.
Unlike the Roadrunners’ offensive surge in the sixth, the Bulldogs managed only one run with the bases loaded in their half of the pivotal frame. First baseman Tom Leary drew a walk, scoring pinch runner Xander Catrambone to extend RBHS’s advantage to 3-1. However, Nazareth lefty reliever Pete Minella fanned Kincanon on an off-speed pitch to end the Bulldogs’ threat. Bartels worked 4 2/3 innings as the Roadrunners’ starter before Minella earned the win in relief.
“We had opportunities to extend the lead which we didn’t take advantage of [today],” RBHS coach Dallas Till said. “Extending the lead from 3-1 to 5-1 would have made a huge difference mentally, but we just didn’t get it done. I don’t know if the better team won [today], but they finished on top so give Nazareth credit.”
Bartels, who grew up playing travel baseball with Kincanon, enjoyed squaring off against his friend on the big stage of a sectional semifinal.
“This was the first time we’ve thrown against each other so it was pretty exciting for both of us.” Bartels said after the game. “I have so much respect for him. Will is a phenomenal kid and a phenomenal pitcher.”
“RB has a great baseball program so we’re just happy we found a way to get the win.”
Kincanon, who lost his first game on the spring to finish 11-1 with 118 strikeouts in 79 innings, battled the entire game. Unfortunately, pitching on three days rest may have caught up with the talented 6-foot-3, 185-pound power pitcher against Nazareth.
“I didn’t have my best stuff,” Kincanon said. “I tried to battle through it but just didn’t get the job done. There was no doubt in my mind about starting this game. As a leader, I pride myself on being the horse of our pitching staff.”
Till praised his top pitcher’s gutsy performance, deflecting any second-guessing about Kincanon’s second straight start on short rest as a managerial decision.
The Bulldogs turned in a record-setting season, posting 32 wins – the most victories in a single season in school history. RBHS (32-5-1) also finished 16-2 en route to the Metro Suburban Conference title.