All systems go for streaking Crusaders
Many chefs willingly cook with rice, but most area baseball chiefs are probably steamed at the reality of Rice cooking.
Brother Rice was at full boil last week as, at various times, its defense, pitching and offense all shone. Crusaders coach John McCarthy is most pleased about his team’s ongoing success in the first two areas, but he certainly wasn’t about to complain when Rice’s bats put Andrew in plenty of hot water on Saturday.
Seven players produced multiple-hit games, the Crusaders knocked out 20 hits in all, and that relentless barrage forced the Thunderbolts to absorb a 23-10 beating. The lopsided victory completed a spotless week for Rice, which also got the better of neighborhood rival Marist (3-1) and Hinsdale Central (8-3) in earlier encounters.
The Crusaders entered the current week with four consecutive triumphs and an 11-3 ledger. They were due to face Chicago Catholic League foes in their next four contests.
Ironically, it’s one of the setbacks that McCarthy credits for putting his guys on the fast track.
“The Joliet Catholic game when we lost [4-0 the week before] — they outplayed us and their energy level was above ours,” he said. “That showed us how far we had to go and what we had to work on to become an elite team. We gained a lot from it and it really helped us turn the corner.
“Our kids have responded and they give us a good effort every time out. We’re not there [where we want to be] yet, but the leadership has been good and they’ve set an expectation.”
One thing nobody likely expected was for Rice to overpower Andrew in the manner it did. The T’bolts actually held sway after three innings, but it was all Crusaders from that point forward.
A nine-run blitz enabled Rice to expunge a 6-2 deficit and move in front for good. It then posted seven- and five-run rallies in its next two at-bats to turn the game into a rout.
Heroes were plentiful, but three of the biggest were Kevin Sullivan, Andrew Dyke and Michael Schlasky, who combined to go 10-for-13 with four extra-base hits, 11 RBI and eight runs scored. Both Sullivan and Schlasky slugged homers on the Crusaders’ behalf.
Also getting into the act were Kyle Hilliard (double, three RBI), Mike Massey (double, four runs, one RBI), Jake Barry (two doubles, three RBI) and Erich Lieser (double, four runs, one RBI), all of whom supplied a pair of hits.
“It was nice to have a nine-run rally after getting down 6-2, but it boils down that we try to play our best every day,” McCarthy said. “For us, we’re not necessarily playing opponents as much as the game itself. We want to have good innings and stay into the game pitch by pitch.”
Andrew used six pitchers versus Rice, which countered with three. Brian Musielak, who also chipped in offensively with a hit and three RBI, earned the victory after scattering six hits and striking out four.
The T’bolts’ attack featured several key individuals as well, including the trio of Jeff Szubert, John McLaughlin and Ramon Gonazles. All three players sent one ball over the fence in a losing cause.
Brother Rice 3
The RedHawks held the upper hand against the Crusaders on the football field and basketball court this school year, but Rice gave itself some bragging rights by squeezing out a victory over Marist last Wednesday.
Mike Enriquez and Kevin Biondic teamed up on the hill to stifle the RedHawks, with the former notching the win and Biondic registering his fourth save of the spring. Between them, they allowed just three hits and fanned seven.
Two of those hits were combined to put Marist ahead in the opening frame. Eric Hanson’s double brought home Pat Meehan, who had singled.
RedHawks hurler Kyle Barrett protected that slim lead until the fourth, when the Crusaders grouped a couple of their own hits together. Lieser’s double was big, but Musielak’s round-tripper was even bigger as it inched the visitors in front.
“Marist is always well-coached, plays great defense and has pretty good pitching,” McCarthy said. “We were lucky to get out of there [successfully].”
Dyke’s double in the fifth completed Rice’s scoring and saddled Barrett with a tough-luck defeat. Marist coach Tom Fabrizio felt his pitcher, who’s “probably been our second-best guy on the mound,” deserved a better fate, but had no difficulty pointing to the RedHawks’ main trouble area, one that has, in fact, plagued them almost from the get-go this season.
“We just don’t swing it,” Fabrizio said, referring to his offense. “It’s as simple as that.”
Brother Rice 8
Hinsdale Central 3
Whenever a matchup with Marist looms on the horizon, Crusaders coaches in every sport are wary of the game that immediately precedes it, wondering if it will attract their athletes’ full attention.
McCarthy didn’t have to worry about last Monday’s clash with the Red Devils, though, especially after the fourth inning. That’s when Rice erupted for five runs to turn a white knuckler into a knockout punch.
A Hinsdale error that followed three walks increased the Crusaders’ edge at that moment to 4-1. Biondic (sacrifice fly), Lieser (two-run double) and Musielak (RBI double) provided additional runs and made sure freshman Ryan Kutt would win his third decision in a row. Kutt gave up three hits to the Devils during his mound stint and fanned four.
“We’re very pleased with where we’re at,” McCarthy said. “Our pitching and defense has been fantastic, and we knew the bats would eventually come around. We have a senior-led pitching staff and they set the tone.
“We want to play good baseball steadily, but we’re trying to keep it [focused on] day by day. We tell our guys, ‘Don’t look too far ahead,’ and it’s up to us to come prepared every day.”
The RedHawks weren’t any more offensive-minded last Monday than they wound up being on Wednesday against Brother Rice; in fact, the same three players — Hanson, Meehan and John Carmody — also accounted for Marist’s only hits versus the Eagles.
But what undermined Sandburg was a sixth-inning error. By throwing a ball away, the Eagles let the RedHawks (6-7) pull even, and Hanson and Carmody then followed with RBI hits.
Fabrizio considered Marist fortunate to have emerged victorious after Sandburg carried a 1-0 lead it had gained in the third stanza deep into the game.
“Once they scored the run, they were in control,” Fabrizio said of the Eagles. “We pretty much got dominated for most of the game.”
Sandburg totaled nine hits, but RedHawks hurler Ryan Kairis made sure they stayed scattered and, thus, relatively harmless. He finished with five strikeouts.
“He just did a good job of getting out of situations,” Fabrizio said of his junior pitcher. “We’ll take it, but it wasn’t a pretty win.”
Slightly more appealing to the RedHawks was their conquest of the Chargers on Saturday.
It didn’t start out that way, as Stagg amassed three first-inning runs. Marist quickly countered, however, then picked up four more markers over the next two frames to take command. Grant Kenny (two RBI), Barrett Callaghan (one RBI), Carmody (one RBI) and Meehan all stroked a pair of hits for the RedHawks.
“I’m still not seeing enough to believe we can contend right now in our conference,” Fabrizio said. “But it was nice to put up some runs.”
Blake Bieniek (double) and Dylan Woodworth (groundout) also had RBI for Marist. Kairis notched the pitching win by piling up nine strikeouts.
Jake Wimmer’s two-run double keyed Stagg’s opening outbreak and Max Strus drove in a run with his groundout, but the Chargers did little of note after that. Double plays ended two of their later plate appearances.
“We could have easily scored more,” Stagg coach Matt O’Neill said. “The way the wind was blowing, if you put the ball in the air, it was interesting. That affected us, but I thought that was a game we could have won.”
Hinsdale Central 000 100 2 — 3
Brother Rice 102 500 x — 8
Brother Rice 2B: Lieser, Musielak. RBI: Lieser 4, Biondic 2, Musielak. WP: Kutt (3-0).
Brother Rice 000 210 0 — 3
Marist 001 000 0 — 1
Brother Rice 2B: Dyke, Lieser. HR: Musielak. RBI: Musielak 2, Dyke. WP: Enriquez (3-1).
Marist 2B: Hanson. RBI: Hanson. LP: Barrett (0-2).
Brother Rice 200 975 — 23
Andrew 132 040 — 10
Brother Rice 2B: Barry 2, Dyke, Hilliard, Lieser, Massey, Sullivan. HR: Schlasky, Sullivan. RBI: Schlasky 6, Sullivan 4, Barry 3, Hilliard 3, Musielak 3, Dyke, Lieser, Massey. WP: Musielak.
Sandburg 001 000 0 — 1
Marist 000 002 x — 2
Marist RBI: Carmody, Hanson. WP: Kairis (1-2).
Stagg 300 100 0 — 4
Marist 313 000 x — 7
Stagg 2B: Bolero, Duffner, C. Martinez, Wimmer. RBI: Wimmer 2, Strus. LP: Gambill (1-1).
Marist 2B: Bieniek, Carmody, Kairis. RBI: Kenny 2, Bieniek, Callaghan, Hanson, Woodworth. WP: Kairis (2-2).