Bulldogs bounce back from defeat to win twice
Losing a game is much different than losing one’s bearings.
But when winning has become commonplace, even a lone setback can have dire psychological consequences. Thus, after Richards absorbed just its second defeat over a span of 16 games last Monday, Bulldogs assistant coach Kevin Quinn had a message for the players.
“He said, ‘Don’t lose two in a row this year,’” Richards boss Brian Wujcik said.
And the Bulldogs proceeded to heed that advice. Not only did they gain revenge on South Suburban Conference Red rival Reavis by answering Monday’s 7-1 loss with an 8-4 victory for themselves, but the locals also went on to hammer Lincoln-Way East 12-3 on Thursday.
“We are [still] playing with confidence,” Wujcik said. “The guys all understand we’re not Murderer’s Row, but we are efficient hitters and we can manufacture [good scoring] innings.”
Ironically, that was the missing ingredient in the first matchup against the Rams. Reavis lefty Bibal Abuzir limited normally potent Richards to eight singles and an unearned run.
The Bulldogs took advantage of a bad pickoff throw to set up their only score in the third inning. AJ Sanchez (RBI) and Eric Mallo wrapped singles around that Rams miscue.
“We got beat by a guy who pitched a really good game,” Wujcik said. “We’ve been pretty accustomed to double-digit hits, and often double-digit runs, but nobody’s going to roll over for us.
“There was a little bit of emotion lacking from our guys in this game. I know it’s clichéd, but you’ve got to come out and play hard every day.”
Reavis broke the contest open by tallying five runs in its portion of the fourth, a rally that was helped along by a walk and hit batsman. Ryan Thompson got tagged with his first pitching loss after notching four consecutive wins.
The defeat was Richards’ first in conference play but didn’t really put its divisional lead in much jeopardy. The Bulldogs’ closest pursuer remains three games in arrears.
“We’re OK,” Wujcik said. “Even at the beginning of the year when the coaches were looking ahead, we thought [anyone with a] 16-3 [league record] would probably be a conference champion. We can still do that.”
When Reavis struck for three runs in its initial at-bat on Tuesday, Wujcik wondered if his club was in for another long day. However, two hits and a Rams error enabled Richards to shave its deficit to one in the bottom of the first.
“If we wouldn’t have answered them with a couple runs right away, I think we would have been in a real dogfight the rest of the game,” Wujcik said.
The Bulldogs (17-4, 11-1) then inched in front during their second plate appearance, as Sanchez’s single — Richards’ third hit of the inning — and another Reavis defensive lapse produced two more runs.
From there, Sanchez assumed control on the hill as he no-hit the Rams between the second and sixth stanzas. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, cushioned Sanchez with four more runs as Nate Natividad (double), Nick Mejia (RBI single), Shawn Chiaramonte (RBI double) and Charlie Zeschke (RBI single) all delivered clutch hits. Sanchez also aided his own cause with a triple and sacrifice fly.
Once again, Richards inflicted some of its damage with two-out surges.
“I can’t explain it,” Wujcik said of the Bulldogs’ season-long proficiency in that area. “But I’m not complaining.”
Sanchez kept his pitching ledger spotless by going the distance on a yield of seven hits. He fanned five and walked just one batter.
Lincoln-Way East 3
With designs on a conference title, the Bulldogs’ conquest of the Griffins on Thursday might have seemed like a bonus. Wujcik, though, attached much more meaning to it.
“We told our guys before the game it’s every bit as important as a conference game because Lincoln-Way East is in our sectional and we’re getting close [to tournament time],” he said. “It’s [a] loaded [field], and what’s even more frustrating is the schools that are having down years are still unbelievably dangerous.
“We could still get a four or five seed, but you could get a five seed and maybe have to play somebody like Lockport.”
Lincoln-Way East shares a SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue residence with the Porters, but the Griffins were simply left black and blue by a Richards attack that featured a half-dozen extra-base hits among its 14-hit total. Mejia and Mike Marchione both slugged solo homers, while Natividad (double) and Mallo each supplied a two-RBI hit during the contest.
“We were dialed in,” Wujcik said. “Even our outs were [hit] hard.”
Other contributors for the Bulldogs included Zeschke (two hits, one RBI), Noel Castro (double), Chiaramonte (double), Sanchez (RBI single) and Danny Estrella (RBI single). Freshman Angelo Smith pocketed the pitching triumph by striking out five and scattering six hits.
Back-to-back encounters with Eisenhower began Richards’ current week, and a showdown with SSC Blue power Lemont is on tap for today. The Bulldogs will meet Yorkville in a nonconference affair Saturday at Silver Cross Field in Joliet.
Richards 001 000 0 — 1
Reavis 011 500 x — 7
Richards RBI: Sanchez. LP: Thompson (4-1).
Reavis 300 000 1 — 4
Richards 220 112 x — 8
Richards 2B: Chiaramonte, Natividad. 3B: Sanchez. RBI: Sanchez 2, Chiaramonte, Mejia, Zeschke. WP: Sanchez (4-0).
Lincoln-Way East 101 001 0 — 3
Richards -Richards 2B: Castro, Chiaramonte, Mallo, Natividad. HR: Marchione, Mejia. RBI: Mallo 3, Marchione 2, Natividad 2, Estrella, Mejia, Sanchez, Zeschke. WP: Smith (4-0).