For the second consecutive year, first-inning defensive miscues put the Riverside-Brookfield High School baseball team in a hole it couldn’t climb out of in a state-tournament game against an opponent from the Chicago Catholic League.
The Bulldogs’ season came to close May 27 with a 4-2 loss to St. Rita in the Class 4A St. Rita Regional final. Junior Cooper Marrs was outstanding, pitching a one-hitter, but hitting four batters and the Bulldogs (21-11) committed four errors, including two in the first inning.
“I thought we played hard, just made a couple errors, that’s the game really,” said Bulldogs head coach Mark Ori.
Three of the St. Rita’s runs were unearned. St. Rita (26-11) scored twice in the first inning and never trailed. With one out in the first St. Rita shortstop Joey Smith smacked a hard short hopper past second baseman Rex Dockendorf. Smith advanced to second when Marrs hit a batter. Then both runners advanced on a wild pitch.
Smith scored the first run of the game when pulled-in third baseman Jaime Izaguirre fielded a grounder but threw high to the plate trying to nail Smith. The Mustangs’ second run came on a fielder’s choice when the Bulldogs couldn’t quite turn a double play.
St. Rita added scored another unearned run in the second inning to take a 3-0 lead, but the Bulldogs battled back to score two runs in the top of the third. Jacob Cruz reached on an error with one out and Cruz scampered home when center fielder Luke Yachnin jumped on a curveball by St. Rita Starter Louie Sisto and smacked a double down the left field line.
“I was seeing his curveball well today,” Yachnin said. “He left one over the plate so I was able to poke it down the line for a double. That was the pitch I was looking for.”
Yachnin then stole third and scored the Bulldogs second run on a sacrifice fly when junior designated hitter Wesley Deason’s belted a fly ball to deep center to make the score 3-2. But the Bulldogs could only manage two more hits in the game.
St. Rita scored an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. Novak (1 for 2) flied out deep to center to lead off the seventh for the Bulldogs. After Dockendorf popped out to short, sophomore left fielder Jaden Despe doubled to right before Cruz struck out looking to end the game.
Marrs (4-5) went the distance allowing only one hit, striking out two, walking two and hitting four batters.
“Cooper pitched a great game,” Ori said.
The Bulldogs had their second consecutive 20-plus win season and finished third in the Metro Suburban Blue Division, just a game out of first place.
The game marked the end of the high school careers for senior starter Dockendorf, a three-year varsity starter, and two-year starters Novak, Yachnin and Jake Tyler.