Although the Riverside-Brookfield and Morton High School softball teams don’t reside in the same conference, the area rivals have already offered three compelling games this spring.
RBHS completed a three-game sweep of the Mustangs with an 8-7 win Friday at Veterans Park in North Riverside. The Bulldogs also edged Morton 5-3 and 7-6 during their season-opening “Midnight Madness” indoor session of games at the MAX Center in McCook on March 22.
In the teams’ third and final encounter, the Bulldogs scored four in the runs in the fifth inning to seize a 7-3 lead. Senior Sam Cook smacked a two-RBI double and freshman Lyndsey Hoyd followed with another double scoring another run during the Bulldogs’ offensive surge.
“I was kind of nervous at first because I had two strikes on me,” said Cook, “but I just remained confident. My focus was to make contact and hustle all the way. It’s awesome that two runners were able to score on that double.”
Center fielder Lana Herrmann crushed a solo home run in the sixth inning extending the Bulldogs’ advantage to 8-3.
“After we scored some runs in the fifth [inning], I just wanted to keep it going,” Herrmann said about her prodigious homer over Morton’s left fielder. “It was the right pitch at the right time and I put a good swing on the ball.”
The extremely athletic junior is capable of playing catcher, center field, third base and first base for the Bulldogs.
“Being a versatile player helps me understand every position on the field, especially when I’m catching,” Herrmann said. “It also helps me be a better leader because I can relate to all the players on the field.”
Despite impressive hitting from the Bulldogs, however, Morton would not go away quietly. The Mustangs reeled off four runs in the top of the seventh before RBHS middle infielders Taylor Holin and Caitie Rusen shut down the rally to preserve the victory.
Trailing 8-7 with a runner on third base and one out in the top of the seventh, a Morton player hit a ground ball to Holin at shortstop. She scooped up the ball and fired it to freshman catcher Cameron Shaw who tagged the potential game-tying runner out at home plate. On the ensuing play, the Bulldogs’ second baseman Rusen fielded another grounder and ran to second base beating a Morton player to the bag for a force out to end the game.
“I knew my defense would be able to make the plays for us to win,” junior pitcher Katie O’Connell said. “I just kept mixing up my pitches and relied on my defense. Our team has so much potential. We have young players with a lot of talent and everybody is already getting better.”
O’Connell earned the win, while Liz DiMonte, Kendall Hastings Cook, Herrmann, Hoyd, Rusen and Holin contributed to a balanced offensive attack.
RBHS (7-9, 1-1 Metro Suburban Conference) split a doubleheader against Evergreen Park on Saturday. Evergreen Park won the opener 9-0 and RBHS took Game 2 in a 13-9 slugfest. Under their new head coach Doug Schultz and his top assistant Jame Holt, the Bulldogs have shown sign of progress by winning four of their last six games including a 21-5 rout of Timothy Christian in conference action. Most importantly, the players are buying into the fresh dugout leadership.
“I love our new coaches,” Cook said. “They’re fun to be around but we’re also getting a lot of work done and improving. It’s a great way to finish off my senior year.”
The Bulldogs visit Class 3A defending state champion Glenbard South early this week before hosting Fenton on Thursday (4:30 p.m.) and York in a doubleheader on Saturday (11 a.m.). RBHS home games are played at Veterans Park in North Riverside.
“We’re looking for consistency,” Schultz said. “We’re starting to see consistency at the plate with good at-bats. Part of this [season] is kind of shaking off last year [RBHS went 11-21 in 2013], too. Hopefully, we can string together a few more wins in a row and really build some momentum.”