Winning a regional championship in any sport is always a worthy accomplishment at Riverside-Brookfield High School.
The RBHS softball team achieved that feat, and really much more, considering the Bulldogs’ turnaround regular season.
After a disappointing 10-18 campaign in 2016, RBHS went 26-10 this spring and defeated Shepard 5-2 in the Reavis Regional final on May 27.
Although the Bulldogs’ season ended abruptly with an 11-0 loss against Marist in a sectional semifinal, the team flourished as a fun-loving group on and off the field.
“I still can’t believe that we won a regional,” RBHS junior pitcher Nora Dakota said. “Everyone really bonded which solidified our team. I believe that’s a huge reason why we had such a successful season. It was a great opportunity to even get that far with an amazing team.
RBHS boasted plenty of balance, depth and chemistry this season. Dakota anchored the pitching rotation with a 15-6 record, 4.38 earned run average, 36 walks and 74 strikeouts in 117 innings. Tori Blood (6-0, 4.68 ERA) and Nadia Ranieri (4-2) filled out the other top spots of a five-player staff.
Hitting-wise, a bevy of Bulldogs contributed to a versatile offense which had power and speed. Seven players homered and five players hit over .420 for RBHS this season.
Senior catcher Cameron Shaw led the way with a .449 batting average, 48 hits, one home run and a team-best 41 RBIs. Kailyn Ngo served as a catalyst offensively by hitting .450 with a .496 on-base percentage along with team-highs in hits (50) and steals (6, tied with Alivia Ranieri).
Other hitting stars included Alivia Ranieri (.429, 1 HR, 28 RBIs), Amanda Martinez (.420, 24 RBIs, .454 OBP) and Nadia Ranieri (.379, 22 RBIs).
“Something that really stuck out to me this was trust,” Shaw said. “I think the key reason we improved so much and performed at such a high level was because everyone trusted each other.
“Whether it was a hard catch in the outfield, a sacrifice bunt to move a runner over, or a relay throw, we always had each other’s back.”
Schultz, who will be honored as the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark’s “Coach of the Year” at the paper’s Night of Champions 3 on Tuesday, June 20 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Lund Auditorium on the Dominican University campus, also played a substantial role in the Bulldogs’ resurgence.
“At that start of the season, Coach Schultz shared some readings that touched on the mindset of a team,” Ngo said. “He talked about the poise we need to have as teammates. We also watched motivational videos and he gave us pep talks before games. He would tell us what to expect from the team we were facing each game, which prepared us well to know what’s coming our way.”
Although the Bulldogs lose five players to graduation, the returning group is motivated to build on the success of 2017.
“What’s really awesome about our team is we have a lot of young blood,” Dakota said. “I’m really excited to see how these players will develop and step up. These underclassmen will be the future of RB softball so I’m really excited to see it leads.”
Ngo added: “Winning regionals was hands down the happiest moment of my life. I’m pretty sure a lot of the other girls feel the same way. My best friends were by my side as we made RB softball history.”