With the exception of a disastrous half-inning, Riverside played well enough to win a second round matchup against Moline at the 10-Under Illinois Little League State Tournament at Keystone Park in River Forest on Sunday.
Trailing by two runs in the bottom of the third, Moline sent 20 batters to the plate and scored 14 runs en route to a 17-10 win.
“It was a tough half-inning for us,” Riverside head coach Craig Chapulis said. “[Moline] put 14 runs on the board and we made a couple of bonehead errors which cost us the game. If we made those plays, I think the outcome would have been different. I tried to stay positive to encourage our kids to keep playing hard.”
In fact, Riverside did play well the rest of the game, outscoring Moline 10-3. Starting pitcher Rex Dockendorf, catcher Patrick Durkin and shortstop Connor Chapulis drove in a run apiece in the fourth to pull Riverside within 14-5. In the fifth, second baseman Ryan Novak hit a three-run double, scoring Colin Cash, Luke Yachnin and Dockendorf to make the score 14-8.
“That one inning hurt us a lot, but we did a good job of coming back,” Dockendorf said. “We kept fighting and never gave up.”
Moline answered Riverside’s six-run spurt with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to extend the lead to 17-8. Reflective of the game’s back and forth nature, Riverside kept it interesting by scoring two runs in the sixth on Frankie Gazzolo’s double to deep center field and Ryan O’Donoghue’s two-base hit. Alec Posluzny turned in several innings of solid relief work to keep Riverside reasonably close.
“We have really good talent and awesome teamwork,” Durkin said. “If we all play well and together, we can still win this tournament. We need to jump on teams early.”
Durkin, a power bat in the middle of Riverside’s lineup, also played well defensively while handling a plethora of pitchers.
“It’s not really a challenge catching so many different pitchers because I do it all the time,” Durkin said. “It’s really fun and I love to catch.”
In their state tourney opener, Riverside cruised past Oglesby 16-6 on Saturday.
“We swung the bats extremely well in the first game,” Craig Chapulis said. “We were a little nervous but came alive in the third and fourth innings and put up some crooked numbers. I was pleased with how we hit the ball and ran the bases.”
Riverside’s bid for a state title ended Monday night with a 9-7 loss to Olney in the losers bracket. Despite a 1-2 record at the state tournament, the team turned in a remarkable effort this summer.
“We made history as the only Riverside [boys] team that’s been to state,” Connor Chapulis said. “We’re proud of that and really thankful of the support we have from our families, friends and fans. They spent their time to come out and watch us.”
Novak added: “Everybody on our team hangs out together and we have gotten to know each other. Our coaches help us stay focused and teach us new things every day. The support from our hometown means so much. This is the funnest thing I’ve done in my life.”
Riverside (8-3 in state playoffs) qualified for the state tournament by winning a district championship with a 5-0 record and then taking second at a sub-state tournament.
Riverside’s roster includes Rex Dockendorf, Ryan Novak, Patrick Durkin, Connor Chapulis, Frankie Gazzolo, Colin Cash, Luke Yachnin, Ryan O’Donoghue, Liam Smith, Alec Posluzny, Sam Thomas, Jake O’Brien and Caden Donnelly. The coaches are Craig Chapulis, Tom Dockendorf and Jeff Novak.
“This summer has been a great experience for all of us,” Craig Chapulis said. “I think it’s unbelievable for our kids to experience the kind of support they’ve had from a small town like Riverside. We have at least a couple hundred people supporting us each game which really helps the kids a lot. I truly believe that there aren’t 13 better kids in the state that can play this game like we do.”