Riverside-Brookfield High School head baseball coach Dallas Till is not one for moral victories. And yet, he even conceded that he was very proud of the way the Bulldogs played during a 3-2 loss against St. Laurence in a Class 4A regional final last season. St. Laurence finished 36-6 and took third in the state playoffs.

Trailing the Vikings 3-2 in the top of seventh, RBHS had a runner on second with one out but failed to score the tying run.

“We beat Oak Lawn 2-1 to open the playoffs and then played very well against St. Laurence,” Till said. “It’s always tough to lose, but I was proud of our players.”

While the Bulldogs lost a handful of key contributors to graduation, notably shortstop Kyle Fitzgerald, a strong senior class is back this spring. Experienced varsity players Jarod Turina (.495 batting average, 30 RBIs last season), John Kosner (.291 avg., 14 RBIs) and Howie Hatton will be relied upon for leadership and production.

Junior Ryan Cermak, an Illinois State commit, is another top player and the Bulldogs’ pitching ace. He hit .367 with 25 RBIs and a .482 on-base percentage in 2017. He also threw 48 innings with a 6-1 record, 56 strikeouts and a 0.88 earned run average.

“This year we have a lot of veterans who have played at the varsity level and know what comes with that responsibility,” Turina said. “The offense is looking very good and we have tons of depth in terms of position players. While we could use more arms for our rotation, it’s good to know we have a guy like Ryan Cermak who can seriously make us a strong team this season.”

Cermak embraces a leadership role.

“I feel my role this year is to keep the team going when we’re in a slump,” Cermak said. “I’m really looking forward to this season. I think we have a very special group that has the potential to be great.”

Cermak and Turina will form a solid 1-2 punch at the top of the RBHS rotation. Nate Roberto is a possible third option, although he’s unproven at the varsity level.

Hatton (first baseman), Kosner (second baseman), Cermak (shortstop) and Chris Roberston (third base) is the probable starting infield. Samuel Grivetti also plays first base.

When Cermak pitches, Robertson or Jordan Griffin will shift to third. Sophomore catcher Mike Schicker is a good athlete at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds and very good defensively. Slated to hit in the No. 5 of 6 spot in the order, Schicker will need to produce this season.

Turina anchors the outfield in center field. Joe Kawiecki, Casey Vileta, Marco Ruiz, Griffin and Robertson could all see playing time in the outfield.

Offensively, Turina will lead off with Kosner batting second. Some combination of Cermak, Hatton, Schicker and Robertson will comprise the middle of the order.

RBHS should contend with Illiana Christian and Aurora Central Catholic in the Metro Suburban.

RBHS baseball scouting report

Riverside-Brookfield Bulldogs

Head coach: Dallas Till

Record last year: 21-9-1 (8-4 Metro Suburban Conference; 3rd place);Lost to St. Laurence 3-2 in a Class 4A regional final

Top players: Jarod Turina, CF/P, Sr.; John Kosner, 2B, Sr.; Howie Hatton, 1B, Sr.; Ryan Cermak, P/3B, Jr.

Outlook: The annual goals for RBHS are to win at least 20 games plus conference and regional titles. If the Bulldogs can develop their pitching depth and the varsity, expectations seem reasonable.