By Marty Farmer
For the opening three innings of Saturday's efficiently played nonconference game between host Fenwick and Riverside-Brookfield, the squads' respective aces, Valerie Perrelli (Fenwick) and Katie O'Connell (RBHS) battled in a 1-1 pitcher's duel. The Friars broke the game open in the fourth inning by scoring six runs quickly, en route to an 11-1 victory in five innings. Game time lasted just 57 minutes.
Fenwick senior center-fielder Jenna Cairo (2-for-2) provided the major damage against O'Connell with a three-run homer during the Friars' fourth-inning awakening. Her younger sister, freshman Natalie Cairo (2-for-3) also homered, and Jessica Mrozek finished 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
"After we get through the lineup once, we've been adjusting really well to pitching," Fenwick coach Mike Marrese said. "It seems like we settle down and we're able to hit some good balls. Valerie Perrelli has been a workhorse for us all year as pretty much our only healthy pitcher. She came out firing against RB."
Perrelli allowed one earned run and two hits and struck out eight over five innings to earn the win for Fenwick (13-15).
"My defense really had my back today," Perrelli said. "We scored a lot of runs, which obviously always helps. My catcher [Michaela Monaco] actually called my pitches and she did a really good job. I felt focused the entire game."
The Bulldogs (12-19, 6-5 Metro Suburban) scored their lone run in the second inning, courtesy of Isabel Pena's infield RBI, to briefly hold a 1-0 lead. O'Connell was on cruise control in the pitching circle until the fourth.
"I thought I was hitting my spots but [Fenwick] was able to reach for some balls and stepped up their game," O'Connell said. "[Perrelli] is maybe the best pitcher we faced all season."
RBHS also fell to Metro Suburban Conference opponent Illiana Christian, 11-1, earlier Saturday morning in a scheduling quirk, with split road games on the same day.
In other games last week, the Friars edged Nazareth 2-0 as Mrozek tossed a complete-game five-hitter with six strikeouts. Summer Caliendo and Mrozek each finished 1-for-3 with an RBI to provide just enough offense against the Roadrunners.
RBHS notched an impressive 19-8 win against Fenton at the Rosemont Dome. Lyndsey Hoyd and O'Connell both went 5-for-6 with five RBIs, while Cameron Shaw finished 3-for-4 with two singles, a triple and two runs knocked in. Lana Herrmann crushed a towering three-run homer (estimated 250 feet) as the primary highlight of the Bulldogs' 23-hit attack.
"We've been relying on our hitting a lot because we tend to have big innings," RBHS third baseman Kendall Hastings said. "Our offense has come a long way, but we probably can improve our defense a bit. I think we just have to clean up a few things, but we definitely have a lot of potential."
Looking ahead to the postseason, regional host Fenwick opens the Class 4A playoffs (Tuesday, May 27, 4:30 p.m.) at the Priory in River Forest against the winner of Northside vs. Von Steuben. The Friars are seeded third in the stacked Trinity Sectional, which also includes top-seeded York, No. 2 seed Oak Park and River Forest and No. 4 seed Trinity.
RBHS takes on regional host Aurora Central Catholic (Wednesday, May 28, 4:30 p.m.) in the Class 3A playoffs. Montini, which likely will be waiting for the Bulldogs in the regional championship game should RBHS win its opener vs. ACC, is the top seed in the Glenbard South Sectional.
The sectional host/3A defending state champion Raiders are the No. 2 seed. Glenbard South swept RBHS, 4-3 and 17-10, during the regular season en route to the Metro Suburban Conference championship.