Although the Riverside-Brookfield High School baseball team lost its final two games of the regular season by a combined score of 16-1, the Bulldogs remain confident entering the Class 4A state playoffs this week.
The optimistic outlook is justified considering RBHS just completed a solid 22-13 campaign. The Bulldogs also earned a four-way share of the Metro Suburban Conference West Division title with Wheaton Academy, Glenbard South and Aurora Central Catholic. Each team finished 12-7 but there is no tiebreaker if more than two teams share the championship.
RBHS secured its portion of the title by winning a pair of games against Wheaton Academy in mid-May. Junior Asher Runyan-Randruut threw a complete-game shutout and sophomore catcher Jarod Turina drove in the lone run during a 1-0 victory at Wheaton Academy. The Bulldogs consolidated that effort with an 8-5 win against Warriors in the rematch at Ehlert Park.
Prior to their aforementioned two-game skid, RBHS had won nine of 12 games overall, highlighted by a signature 7-2 victory at Nazareth. Runyan-Randruut earned a complete-game win and senior Enrique Trujillo went 2-for-4 with four RBIs against the Roadrunners. Outfielders Richie Gentile, Matt Armenta and Kenny Ngo played flawless defense in support of Runyan-Randruut’s strong outing.
“Baseball season is filled with peaks and valleys and this season has been no different,” RBHS coach Dallas Till said. “We started off extremely hot and hit a bit of a lull about midway through the season. For the most part, we have been playing better baseball lately.
“We want to be playing our best baseball at the end of May. We still have the opportunity to do that and we’re looking forward to the playoffs.”
The emergence of Runyan-Randruut as an all-conference player coupled with the play of promising sophomores John Kosner, Howie Hatton and Turina bodes well for the future of RBHS baseball. Junior shortstop Kyle Fitzgerald, another all-conference player, is a major talent who is already drawing Division I recruiting interest. Turina, Trujillo and Kosner also earned all-conference recognition.
Supplementing their front line stars, John Minella, Scott Anderson, Alex Martinson, Sam Mendez and Vitto Toscano have provided quality depth to the roster.
In the dugout, Till and assistant coaches Mark Ruge and his son, Joe, have developed the team’s considerable young talent well.
“Watching Dallas handle multiple situations with the baseball program on a professional basis while continuing to win is amazing,” Mark Ruge said. “His in-game management of the game always gives us an advantage. We cherish every moment we are allowed to coach together.”
Till, who previously coached at Elmwood Park, notched his 250th career win earlier this spring.
“I wasn’t aware of it until our manager Ryan Kunish mentioned it to our team,” Till said about the milestone. “It reminded me of how thankful I am for the opportunities I have been given by both schools and administrations to lead programs and coach great kids.
“It is a testament to the players that I have coached and the assistants who have devoted their time and effort. I have been blessed with some outstanding baseball players and I’ve realized that time truly flies.”
The Bulldogs open the playoffs against regional host Morton on Thursday, May 26 at 5 p.m. The regional championship game is Saturday, May 28 (10 a.m.) at Morton.
RBHS is seeded seventh in the stacked St. Rita Sectional. Chicago Catholic League powers Brother Rice, St. Laurence, Mt. Carmel and St. Rita are seeded one through four, respectively, with Nazareth (No. 5), Lyons Township (No. 6) and RBHS (No. 7) rounding out the top heavy field of 21 teams.