Early run support is the best friend of any starting pitcher. Riverside-Brookfield High School sophomore Alivia Ranieri certainly enjoyed plenty of it during the Bulldogs’ 19-5 win over Elmwood Park on April 22 at Veterans Park in North Riverside.
The Bulldogs scored eight runs in the first inning and seven runs in the second to stake Ranieri to a 15-0 lead. RBHS seemed content to essentially trade runs with the Tigers the rest of the game.
“I would have liked to cut down on my walks but I’m happy to get the win,” Ranieri said. “I think we all hit well which was great.”
Kendall Hastings (3-for-4, 3 RBIs) started the Bulldogs’ explosion offensively in the first inning with a bases-clearing triple to score Sophia Spirios, Taylor Holin and Katie O’Connell. Other highlights included RBI singles from Lana Herrmann and Holin.
Ranieri helped her cause as well with a single that scored two runs in the first. She finished 4-for-4 with five RBIs and also struck out six in a complete-game win.
RBHS kept the pressure on the in the second with run-scoring singles from Herrmann, Cameron Shaw and Spirios along with a two-RBI double from Ranieri.
Before expansion of the Metro Suburban Conference, RBHS and Elmwood Park shared one of the best rivalries in the league. Last season, the Bulldogs and Tigers split a pair of games during RBHS head coach Doug Schultz’s debut campaign.
In their first meeting this spring, however, RBHS dominated the action early and often.
The victory highlighted a successful week for RBHS (11-8, 3-1 Metro Suburban Conference), which also notched wins over Aurora Central Catholic 4-1 and St. Edward 6-5. Holin and Spirios provided timely hitting and senior pitcher Liz DiMonte threw well in those wins.
After finishing 14-22 last season, the Bulldogs continue their upward trend with better pitching depth, more speed and a balanced offense.
“I’m very happy with the way this season is going and the overall direction of the program,” Schultz said. “Our team is doing a nice job of not letting mistakes linger or compounding them into more mistakes.
“We have a solid freshman core with two on the varsity and three on the junior varsity. Our lower levels have solid records and the varsity is competing well. There’s been a shift overall in the culture of the program. On each level some players aren’t getting the playing time they might normally be used to because the overall quality is better. That’s great for our program.”
The team features three solid starting pitchers with the promising Ranieri, DiMonte and O’Connell.
“With three quality pitchers, we always have rested arms and nobody is tired,” Schultz said. “They have done everything I’ve asked of them which includes throwing strikes, avoiding long innings and using their defense to make plays.”
Offensively, the team possesses plenty of thunder in the middle of the batting order with O’Connell, Hastings and Herrmann hitting 3-4-5.
“I’ve known Katie and Lana for a long time since we used to play travel softball together,” Hastings said. “We kind of have an I go you go kind of thing that fuels us on offense. All the players put in a lot of time and effort during the offseason. I think we have a better team bond and we’re playing for each other.”
Spirios and Holin hit first and second, respectively, as solid table setters.
RBHS takes on host Fenton at Redmond Park on Thursday, April 30 at 4:30 p.m.
After their meeting with the Bison, the Bulldogs open a five-game homestand against Argo on May 5 at 4:30 p.m. The following home games are Immaculate Conception (May 5), Fenton (May 6), Fenwick (May 7) and Richards (May 8), which all begin at 4:30 p.m. at Veterans Park.