RB to ride momentum into playoffs

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By CHRIS PUMMER

What the young Riverside-Brookfield softball team lacks in postseason experience, it makes up for with momentum.

The Bulldogs roll into the Girls' Class AA Regional at RB riding a six-game winning streak. By virtue of being the top seed in the Morton Sectional, they also have the easiest path to a sectional appearance.

Should RB escape a first round game Tuesday (after deadline) against 10th-seeded Tilden, and then a Saturday match-up against the winner of today's game between No. 8 De La Salle and No. 9 Currie, it would be the team's fourth straight regional title.

"To me this team has already had a successful season," said coach Dan Hull, who has guided the Bulldogs to a 23-7 record to begin this week. "We've already accomplished a lot this year."

Balance has been the key for RB all season. The team has been getting contributions from the pitching staff, the batting order and its defense.

Stephanie Madsen has been setting the table for the middle of the Bulldogs' order with her .478 batting average and .538 on-base percentage. Meghan Hutchens is also batting .413 and Maggie McCloskey is hitting .389 while getting on base at a .455 clip.

Alison Milani has done her part in plating all of those base runners with a team-best 34 RBIs. She's batting .378 with a slugging percentage of .561.

For as good as the top and middle of the lineup is, the Bulldogs proved in a 2-1 win over Bellville East at the Stone City Jamboree in Joliet on Saturday that the bottom of the order could also get the job done.

With the score knotted at 1 in the fifth inning, No. 9 hitter Rachel Lauterbach smacked a leadoff triple. Madsen followed with her own triple to score the go-ahead run.

"Everyone else has been chipping in," Hull said. "It's really been a team thing. We never know who's going to get the big hits for us."

Sam Maas, the Bulldogs' sophomore ace, improved to 17-5 after driving in the first RB run. Because of errorless defense behind her, Maas was able to scatter 12 hits over seven innings, while yielding only one run. The only Bulldog pitcher with any playoff experience, she'll be the starter in both regional games this week with Emma Forsberg and April Hutchens available to relieve.

Now playing in top form, RB should be ready for its historically downtrodden regional opponents. RB has won the last seven regional championships. Despite that, the team won't be taking this week's games lightly.

"These teams can be playing well so we have to watch out for them," Hull said. "There's always going to be upsets. You just have to be playing hot when you get to the playoffs."

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