At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Riverside-Brookfield High School senior Kyle Fitzgerald cuts an impressive figure at shortstop. He has size, strength and flexibility.
It’s no wonder the five-tool player signed with Northwestern Florida State Junior College, which has a 21-10 record this spring.
In only the Bulldogs’ third game of the season, Fitzgerald’s set the tone against visiting Francis Parker in his first at-bat.
Fitzgerald crushed a pitch from Parker sophomore Sammy Kagan well over the 325-foot wall in left field to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. Fitzgerald finished 2-for-2, with two walks and two runs scored and showed off his arm at shortstop as RBHS rolled to a 7-0 victory at Ehlert Park in Brookfield.
Fitzgerald is off to a blazing start this spring, hitting .714 with a 1.286 slugging percentage while hitting leadoff.
“Kyle is probably more of a traditional [No. 3] hitter but I want to get him as many at-bats as possible,” RBHS coach Dallas Till said. “He is also a tremendous base runner.”
The defending Metro Suburban Conference champs are hardly a one-man team, however, which has Till and his veteran assistants Mark Ruge and his son, Joe, excited about this season.
Boasting seven starters off a 23-win team in 2016, the Bulldogs’ depth wore down the Colonels at Ehlert Park.
After Fitzgerald’s solo shot, senior designated hitter Sam Habayeb doubled to left-center. He scored on junior right fielder Howie Hatton’s stand-up triple to make the score 2-0 at the end of one inning.
In the second inning, Parker put runners on the corners via two errors by the Bulldogs. RBHS starting pitcher Jarod Turina wiggled out of trouble by recording three straight outs, including two strikeouts.
RBHS freshman Mike Schicker roped a double to start off the Bulldogs’ half of the second. After left fielder Christian Perez and third baseman Asher Runyan-Randruut both flied out, Fitzgerald walked to put runners on first and second base with two outs. Turina hit a ball to Parker shortstop Nate Besold, who committed a two-run error, extending the Bulldogs’ advantage to 4-0.
With Turina cruising along on the mound, RBHS put the game out of reach with three runs in the fourth to establish a commanding 7-0. Sophomore first baseman Ryan Cermak (2-for-4) and Hatton each had a run-scoring single in the inning.
Whereas Hatton, Turina and second baseman John Kosner made an immediate impact as first-year varsity players in 2016, Cermak and Schicker are great additions this spring.
“Working with promising young players like Ryan and Michael is one of the most exciting aspects of coaching for Coach Ruge and I,” Till said. “We know that we can work with them early in their career and help mold them into better players.”
Turina allowed two hits and struck out five over five innings to pick up the win.
“We aren’t terribly deep in terms of pitching so Jarod will continue to be a mainstay in our rotation,” Till said. “I expect him to perform well.”
Jeremy Heer and Habayeb each pitched a scoreless inning in relief to preserve the shutout.
In other games this season, RBHS won its home opener 13-2 against Holy Trinity in five innings on March 23. Cermak earned the win in his first career varsity start. The Bulldogs tied host Leyden 4-4 in the season opener on March 21.
“Our defense has been really strong thus far outside of one inning at Leyden,” Till said. “We have been aggressive on the bases and our bats are coming along.
“We need to improve in all areas but one that comes to mind is limiting the walks. I realize it’s early in the season but our pitchers have surrendered too many walks.”
RBHS (2-0-1), which has outscored the opposition 24-6 in three games, plays a game every day this week capped off by a double-header at Leyden Saturday.