The Riverside-Brookfield High School baseball team, which has won eight of nine games overall, remained hot last week with a close victory against Chicago Christian and a pair of convincing wins over Immaculate Conception.
The Bulldogs edged Chicago Christian 2-1 in Palos last Thursday as starting pitcher Connor Berek notched his fourth win this season. The senior left-hander went the distance, allowing one earned and striking out eight. RBHS led 2-0 after two innings and finished with seven hits. Although the Bulldogs stranded several baserunners, timely hits from Jack Domeier and Richie Gentile coupled with Berek’s excellent outing served as the winning combination.
“Connor did what we have come to expect from him,” RBHS coach Dallas Till said. “He throws strikes consistently and pounds the zone. He seems to get stronger as the game moves on. Connor is not overpowering in terms of velocity, but he compensates by pounding the black of the plate and working the knees.
“Chicago Christian was 18-3 at the time we played and we were fortunate to beat them at their place. We didn’t play our best baseball in this game, but were able to come out on the winning end. I think that is the sign of an improving club.”
RBHS (11-5, 9-1 Metro Suburban Conference) had a much easier time against Immaculate Conception. The Bulldogs routed the Knights 13-3 and 14-2. In their 13-3 victory, the Bulldogs scored six runs in the first inning and had 11 hits overall. Brian Kulaga (3-for-3, 3 RBIs), Jake Surprenant (2-for-4), 2 RBIs) and Kenny Ngo (2-for-3, run) paced the attack. Second baseman Kevin Fitzgerald also smacked a bases-clearing double to contribute offensively.
Nick Fucinato gave up two runs and one hit over two innings to notch the victory, while reliever Dominic Gabino allowed an earned run and four hits in three innings of solid work to close out the game.
In the teams’ other meeting, RBHS shortstop Kyle Fitzgerald led off the game with a home run and the Bulldogs never looked back, outhitting the Knights 16-3. Kulaga, Fucinato and Surprenant had three hits apiece and Kevin Fitzgerald drove home three runs. Senior Nico Ranieri turned in a dominant performance with one earned run, nine strikeouts and two walks in three innings to pick up the win.
“Nico continued his early dominance with great command and pop on his fastball,” Till said. “Kevin Fitzgerald has been doing a tremendous job getting on base. Our ability to take leads early in games has allowed me some flexibility with my aggressiveness on the bases and when calling pitches.”
Hosting Timothy Christian on Thursday (4:30 p.m.) at Ehlert Park in Brookfield, the Bulldogs hope to maintain their momentum despite a light week of games.
“We have played a very tough non-conference schedule with games against teams like Oak Park and River Forest and Oswego,” Till said. “The purpose of those games was to help prepare our team for the rigorous conference schedule we’re facing now and to help up become ‘tournament ready’ team at playoff time.
“One of our primary goals is always to compete for a conference championship. I have been telling my squad that we want to be relevant in May. So far, we are giving ourselves every opportunity to do just that.”