It didn't take the Riverside-Brookfield softball team long to find the right blend for success. The Bulldogs are off to a hot start at 14-4, capped last week by a pair of wins against Westmont to open their Suburban Prairie Conference East schedule.
"I had confidence that we could do what we're doing," RB coach Dan Hull said, "but I'm surprised we're doing it so early. I almost can't believe it. But we've had a good mix of players, and everyone has been playing pretty well."
Sophomore hurler Sam Maas took the hill against Westmont in both games last week. In April 20th's game, she tossed all eight frames in an extra-inning affair, eventually winning a 2-1 pitcher's duel.
RB scored a run in the sixth inning before Westmont plated a run in their half of the sixth. The Bulldogs squeezed across another run in the eighth before Maas, who struck out five and allowed only two hits, held on for the win. Alison Milani drove in both RB runs.
The Bulldogs took advantage of Westmont errors to win Thursday's meeting 7-4. RB's first two batters of the game reached on errors. The Bulldogs went on to score five runs before the first inning was over.
For the afternoon, RB knocked out 10 hits, led by Maggie McCloskey, Maas and Stephanie Madsen, who each went 2-for-3. McCloskey and Gina Mayer each drove in two runs and Mass scattered five hits over seven innings to earn her second conference win in three days.
"Getting wins in both of those games was pretty big," Hull said. "Westmont is a team that, with their pitching, can knock you off pretty easily. But instead (of losing a game) have a jump on the conference."
Consistent hitting from every spot in the lineup, plus strong pitching from Maas, fellow sophomore Katrina Holeck and freshman Emma Forsberg, have been key to the Bulldogs' hot start, but Hull says the team's secret is its defense.
Meghan Hutchens made the shift from second base over to first base early in the season to make room in the middle infield for April Hutchens and Kristy Brewer.
Combined with McCloskey's stellar glove work at shortstop, the Bulldogs infield defense has been nothing short of stellar.
"The players have a good attitude and they stick together," Hull said. "We've really had a lot of different kids help us out, so it's not just one kid carrying us. The young kids are also starting to get some confidence. We've improved a lot and now we go out looking to win."
The Bulldogs have a Monday-Thursday series against SPC East rival Elmwood Park this week, and will play at Trinity on Friday.