The Riverside 10 and 11-year-olds All-Star Little League team made history again this summer.
The tight-knit squad became the first in Riverside Little League history to win back-to-back district titles, earn consecutive Sub-State qualifications, and appear in two straight Illinois Little League State Tournaments.
Although the team’s bid for a state championship fell short with a 12-4 loss to Elmhurst, Riverside produced a few remarkable victories along the way at the state tournament in Pittsfield, Ill.
Riverside won three of five games at the state tournament.
Trailing Paris 9-1 in the fourth inning of their most defining game, Riverside rallied for a 13-10 win in eight innings on July 25. With the score knotted at 9-9, Jacob Izaguirre came through in the clutch with double that scored Frankie Gazzolo, Luke Yachnin and Ryan O’Donoghue.
“We were hanging our heads and felt down when we were losing,” said Riverside’s Rex Dockendorf, “but we felt good about ourselves when we started putting runs together in the fifth inning. Eventually we just kept our heads up and tried to get on base like our coaches said. Once we tied the game, we were freaking out.
“We were really happy and felt really good. We got a ton of support from our fans. It was just really incredible.”
Dockendorf went 3-for-4 with three runs scored and Ryan Novak finished 3-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Connor Chapulis pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing four runs and seven hits with four strikeouts.
When the slugfest between Riverside and Paris finally settled, the two hard-hitting teams combined for 23 runs and 22 hits (including 8 extra-base hits). Both bullpens were busy as seven pitchers saw action on the mound.
“We all worked together and never gave up,” Chapulis said. “We believed in ourselves and knew we could come back.”
In another notable game, Dockendorf tossed a no-hitter and struck out five in a 10-0 win against Pike City on July 23.
“My arm felt good,” Dockendorf said. “I didn’t throw my changeup one time, but I located the whole game and felt good.”
Novak (2-for-3, 2 runs scored) and Patrick Durkin (2-for-3, RBI) paced Riverside offensively.
Riverside secured passage to Pittsfield (261 miles away) by edging Western Springs 8-5 in district competition July 9. Gazzolo was 2-for-3 with an RBI and Durkin drove home a pair of runs to pace the victors.
Dockendorf worked 5 2/3 innings to pick up the win. He gave up two runs and six hits with four walks and five strikeouts.
“It’s fun to get downstate again and a great accomplishment,” Chapulis said. “It was big to win the district games to get down there.”
In Sub-Sectional play, Riverside won two of three games highlighted by a 25-0 rout of Alsip to finish second overall.
The team’s third-place finish in the state is a testament to the players’ teamwork and talent. Whether it’s playing together on the Riverside Little League team or the Rockets travel squad, an apparent chemistry has fueled the team’s continuous success.
“We’ve been playing so long together and we are just great friends,” Dockendorf said. “Whenever we do something good we pat each other on the back. When one of us makes an out we always say it’s ok. If someone pulls through with a big hit we just freak out because we’re so happy for them.”
Chapulis echoed Dockendorf’s sentiments about the supportive nature among the players.
“I’ve been playing with most of my teammates since I was seven,” Chapulis said. “We’ve gone through tryouts for different teams and played on different teams. We’re all best friends now.”
The Riverside 10-11 players are Colin Cash, Connor Chapulis, Rex Dockendorf, Patrick Durkin, Caden Donnelly, Frankie Gazzolo, Ryan O’Donoghue, Liam Smith, Ryan Novak, Alex Posluzny, Jacob Izaguirre, Jake O’Brien and Luke Yachnin. Craig Chapulis managed the team, assisted by Tom Dockendorf and Jeff Novak.
-Marty Farmer contributed to this story