RBHS sophomore Tori Blood tracks a pitch she hit for a home run against York during a doubleheader on Saturday, April 16 at Veterans Park in North Riverside. (Submitted photo)

Although the Riverside-Brookfield High School softball team has a 4-9 record, the Bulldogs are optimistic about the rest of the season for several reasons.

Most importantly, RBHS is 2-0 in the Metro Suburban with a convincing 10-2 win against Wheaton Academy and a 6-1 win against Immaculate Conception. The team has also lost three games by a run each despite a very tough nonconference schedule. Finally, with only four seniors on the roster, the players are learning quickly this spring. 

Head coach Doug Schultz feels some minor spring cleaning is required rather than drastic changes in order to pick up more victories.

“Even though our record doesn’t show it, I think we have a very strong group,” Schultz said. “We just need a little fine tuning with things like closing out innings defensively and scoring when we have runners in scoring position. I think we’re going to play some good softball, especially in our conference where currently we are on top.”

Junior Marissa McDermott has led the team offensively with a .500 batting average, and 15 RBIs.

Approaching the midpoint of the season, here are some notes and observations about the Bulldogs.

Patriot games: Senior Kendall Hastings is one of the Bulldogs’ best hitters. Her walk-up song to the plate plays a role in her success. Hastings didn’t choose any modern day music from stars like Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift or Drake. She went surprisingly patriotic with “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

“My walk-up song always helps me, it gives me confidence,” Hastings said. “I love America.”

Her younger sister, Bailey (sophomore outfielder), has the “X Files” theme song as her walk-up music.

The kids are all right: The Bulldogs have eight underclassmen on the varsity, including promising players like Kailyn Ngo, Lauren Lambros, Chrissy Cook, Bailey Hastings, Tori Blood and Nora Dachota.

Ngo, who is hitting .341 with a team-high four stolen bases, looked particularly impressive in Game 2 of a doubleheader against York on Saturday. The freshman reached base several times, showed off her speed on the basepaths, and made a leaping catch at shortstop.

Cook is hitting .375 with a .444 on-base percentage and team-best 21 assists on defense. Lambros is hitting .345. Dachota has pitched 22 innings as the team’s No. 2 pitcher. Bailey Hastings is the latest family member to follow former RBHS star Emily and Kendall.

Over the next several seasons, these players should comprise a good nucleus for RBHS.

“Our hitting and defense have been pretty solid this season,” Cook said. “We still need some work, so you never know, but we’re going to try our best. I think we’ll end up having a good season.”

Pitching depth: The Bulldogs’ rotation can run as deep as five pitchers. The bulk of the innings have gone to junior Alivia Ranieri and Dakota, with Tori Blood, Jordan Huffman and Hanna Bilek also available.

“Alivia has gotten a lot faster and her changeup is great,” RBHS catcher Cameron Shaw said. “Nora has some really good spin on her ball. She’s working on her speed and arm strength, but her accuracy is great.”

Cook comfortable behind plate: Junior catcher Cameron Shaw learned a lot last spring from Lana Herrmann, who is now flourishing at the college softball level with a .280 batting average, eight homers and 27 RBIs for the 36-4 Emory University softball team.

“I loved playing with Lana and learned a lot from her,” Shaw said. “I’m just trying to help my team win and have fun this season.”

Shaw, who is hitting .310, has handled the pitching staff well and provided leadership for the young Bulldogs.