Entering his fifth season as the head coach of the Riverside-Brookfield High School softball team, Doug Schultz guided the Bulldogs to their best season by far under his watch in 2017.

His goal from the start of his tenure was to build a consistent winner. Although the team is 66-65 overall the past four years, RBHS took a major step forward with a 26-10 record last season.

Highlights included an 8-4 record and second-place finish in the Metro Suburban Conference and a Class 4A regional championship.

“Our goal for the season is to build on what was created last year,” Schultz said. “We have seen the formula that works for us.”

The new leaders include senior pitchers Nora Dachota, Tori Blood and sophomore pitcher Nadia Ranieri, along with senior outfielder Bailey Hastings and juniors Kailyn Ngo and Lauren Lambros.

“I’m really looking forward to this season,” Dachota said. “Following last year’s successful season and graduating some of our best hitters, I’m excited to see who steps up and can follow in the footsteps of our graduates.”

The pitching should be solid with Dachota (15-6) and Blood (6-0) at the top of the rotation. Ranieri has plenty of promise.

“We have three very talented pitchers and I am honored to have the opportunity to play and learn from them,” Dachota said. “I want to fulfill my role as one of these pitchers and lead the team to many victories.”

Ngo, the lone returning all-conference player, hit .450 with a .496 on-base percentage last season. Lambros finished 2017 with a .261 average and 16 RBIs in 88 at-bats.

Other varsity returners include senior outfielder Amy Kulaga, senior third baseman Destiny Carroll and junior first baseman Payton Rangel. Catchers Emily Noel and Gillian Gaines, shortstop Abby Favela and outfielder Sophia Spirios are expected to contribute as well.

“I feel that we continue to have a very competitive lineup from our leadoff hitter to our ninth hitter,” Schultz said. “We will be able to produce runs in many ways.”

The conference should be competitive with defending champion Wheaton Academy, Aurora Central Catholic and RBHS among the favorites.

“We should compete for a conference title this season,” Schultz said. “It will not be easy. Every team in our conference has several high quality players.”

In order to better prepare for the playoffs, the Bulldogs have beefed up their schedule with nonconference games against Sandburg, Hinsdale Central and St. Francis, in addition to annual matchups against Oak Park and River Forest, Nazareth, Lyons Township, Lemont and Shepard.

“We will be tested early in the season by playing both Nazareth and OPRF,” Schultz said. “We will have to handle the pressure of going against great competition early in the season.”

RBHS softball scouting report

Riverside-Brookfield Bulldogs

Head coach: Doug Schultz (Fifth season, 66-65 record)

Record last year: 26-10 (8-4 Metro Suburban Conference); lost 11-0 against Marist in the Class 4A Hinsdale Sectional semifinals

Top players: Kailyn Ngo, CF, Jr.;Bailey Hastings, OF, Sr.;Nora Dachota, P, Sr.; Tori Blood, P, Sr.; Nadia Ranieri, P/OF, Soph.

Outlook: RBHS turned a corner last season with its winningest season under Schultz.Whether the team can achieve similar success remains to be seen, but the Bulldogs certainly will be fun to watch this spring.