A disastrous eight-run bottom of the first inning marked by three errors was too much for the Riverside-Brookfield High School baseball team to overcome, as the Bulldogs season ended with a 11-6 sectional semifinal loss to Mount Carmel on June 2 at Reavis High School in Burbank.

RBHS coach Dallas Till decided to start his No. 2 pitcher, Jack Niekrasz, saving ace Owen Murphy, who had allowed only three runs, just one earned, all season, for what would have been the sectional final against top-seeded Brother Rice — the top-ranked baseball team in the state, according to the MaxPreps website. 

Niekrasz (6-3), who is headed to IIT, went the distance allowing nine hits but no earned runs, striking out five, hitting a batter and walking no one. The Bulldogs committed nine errors behind him.

“It was no fault of our pitcher,” Till said. “He was the right guy for this game and I don’t question it. I know I will be questioned for leaving Owen out this game, but I think Owen and I and our staff, everybody was on the same page. … We didn’t make plays behind him today.”

The third seeded Bulldogs (30-6) jumped out to a quick one-run lead in the top of first. With one out, Murphy, who played shortstop, hit a deep fly ball to right which was dropped for a three-base error. Two walks loaded the bases out but the Bulldogs scored only once when Murphy raced home on a short wild pitch. Ryan Novak struck out looking on a pitch that looked to be outside and Rex Dockendorf lined out hard to left to end the inning. 

Things fell apart in the bottom of the first as the second-seeded Caravan sent 12 men to the plate, scoring eight runs. 

Mount Carmel (24-12-1) scored three more runs in the bottom of the third inning, keyed by a two-run home run by Austin Malle, to take 11-1 lead after three innings. But the Bulldogs fought back to score the final five runs of the game.

Senior catcher Brian Twomey belted a two-run home run over the center field fence to give the Bulldogs some life in the fourth inning. 

The Bulldogs scored three more times in the sixth keyed by a two-run double by Ryan Novak, but could get no closer. The fielding lapses doomed the Bulldogs. 

“It’s just baseball,” Twomey said. “Stuff happens sometimes, it’s just how it goes.”

The game marked the end of the career for Owen Murphy, undoubtedly the best player to have ever laced up spikes for the Bulldogs.

In his three-year high school career, Murphy, who is expected to one of the top 50 players selected in next month’s Major League Baseball draft, hit .470 with a school record 30 home runs despite not having a sophomore season because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This season Murphy hit .538 and belted 18 home runs.

On the mound, Murphy was 19-2 in his career with a career ERA of 0.54. This year he was 8-0 and only allowed one earned run in 58.1 innings, compiling a microscopic ERA of 0.12.