There have been times this season that Riverside-Brookfield High School baseball coach Dallas Till has been legitimately concerned about the Bulldogs’ ability to score runs. That concern has morphed into not only an non-issue but a team strength in the playoffs.
Two games into the postseason, the Bulldogs are scoring 10 runs per game and have already claimed the Clemente Regional championship in convincing fashion with a 9-1 win over the host Wildcats. RBHS is the sixth seed while Clemente was the No. 2 seed in the Glenbard South Sectional.
Seedings aside, The Bulldogs’ suddenly prolific offense coupled with the handiwork of all-state/team ace pitcher Will Kincanon makes Till’s team extremely dangerous for any opponent.
Clemente experienced the Bulldogs (23-10) in full on Saturday as Kincanon threw a complete-game, allowing an earned run and three hits with seven strikeouts.
“I really battled against a loaded Clemente team without my best stuff,” Kincanon said. “We’ve really been hitting the ball well also, because I just think we’re more focused in these big games. It helps the entire team because we feel like we can beat anybody now.”
Kincanon also played a major role offensively against Clemente with three hits including a pair of doubles.
With RBHS leading 2-1 in the sixth, Brian Kulaga (2-for-3, four RBIs) crushed a clutch solo home run to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead and valuable insurance run. Xander Catrambone went 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored.
In the bottom of the sixth, RBHS foiled an attempted suicide squeeze, with a pick-off play, and ended the inning with a double play to keep Clemente in check.
“Coach Till called the best game I’ve ever seen,” Kincanon said. “He called the pick-off play at third base, knowing they were about to squeeze [bunt], which was huge. The job that he and [assistant] coach [Mark] Ruge have done is remarkable. They have kept the standard high coming off a record season [32-5 in 2013] last year even though we probably don’t have as much talent as that team.”
RBHS exploded for six runs in the seventh via five hits, a walk and an error to transform the game from a pitcher’s duel to a spirited celebration in the Bulldogs’ dugout.
Since an 18-1 drubbing at the hands of Glenbard South at Jaycee/Ehlert Park, the Bulldogs have won 10 of 12 games and their third regional championship in four years under the coaching combination of Till and Ruge.
“Honestly, we kind of had a tough draw to start the season playing Illiana Christian and Ridgewood, who have both proven to be good teams,” Till said. “We’ve stayed the course all season, but winning the Glenbard South series was a turning point. We’ve been scoring runs, and having Will Kincanon on the mound obviously provides a huge boost for our team. He’ll likely start in the sectional semifinal and hopefully the rest of the guys will play well behind him.”
RBHS takes on Montini, a rematch of last year’s regional final, on Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in a Glenbard South Sectional semifinal matchup. Nazareth and Fenwick meet in the other sectional semifinal Wednesday at 4:30 p.m.