Plagued by injuries, the Riverside Brookfield softball team has seen its fare share of adversity this season.
And considering the Bulldogs boast five freshmen in the starting lineup, one would not expect RB to be enjoying a 14-7 overall record along with a 4-0 Suburban Prairie (East) Conference record. The injury bug afflicted all-conference senior catcher Alison Milani, when she injured her rotator cuff. Milani has been out of the lineup for two and a half weeks. Sophomore leftfielder Kristy Brewer has been out a week because of a virus. Because he is minus these two major players, head coach Dan Hull has used various lineups.
"It really is tough on the kids to play with a different lineup so much, but they have really adjusted well" he said. "Plus, the competition in our conference is brutal. There are some of the best pitchers in the area, so every game is a battle. But, the girls have really risen to the challenge and played well."
Sophomore April Hutchins, who plays second typically, has been playing catcher and Hull has been very pleased with her play considering she has never played catcher before. But Hull's reliance on his talented underclassmen extends even further. Freshman Rachel Buccieri has filled in well at second, while freshman Fallon Ryan plays first along with sophomore Emma Forsberg. Fallon is also swinging a hot bat, compiling a .388 batting average. Freshman Ragen Riley has also been dynamite at third base, according to Hull.
The talented freshman class extends to the Bulldog outfield, with Lindsay Hayes starting in left field. Hayes is currently hitting an impressive .386. Freshman Sam Pozzie has assumed duties in right field and sophomore Jaimie Duffek has been a stalwart centerfielder.
The Bulldogs are not completely devoid of senior leadership, however. Maggie McClosky has led by example at shortstop and in the batters box by hitting .397. Last but certainly not least, junior Sam Maas has been lights out in the pitching circle, compiling a .80 ERA and a 12-3-1 record. Maas has also helped her cause at the plate, batting a solid .360.
Though the Bulldogs were rained out on Saturday, they still enjoyed a great week of softball with two crucial league victories over Elmwood Park. RB prevailed 5-2 on April 25, thanks to some late inning heroics. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh and trailing 2-1, things looked bleak for the Bulldogs. But Pozzie drew a walk and then stole second. McCloskey then drove her in. Duffek then smoked the ball that the Elmwood Park shortstop could not handle and safely reached. Hayes next drove in McCloskey, followed by a Fallon double that scored Duffek and Hayes to seal the game.
In the Thursday contest, the Bulldogs made three errors in the fist inning and fell behind 2-0. But Fallon hit a two-run double to tie the game in the bottom frame, where the score remained until the sixth inning. Hayes reached on a single and Hull substituted Pozzie as a pinch runner, who eventually scored on a suicide squeeze to win the game 3-2. Pozzie and junior Joanne Castaldo, two of the speediest Bulldogs, have been big contributors for the Bulldogs. Now, Hull is setting his sights on getting his team healthy and prepared to play the cream of the crop in the conference.
"We have six more conference games and anything can happen if we play good defense," he said.