With multiple conference division and sectional titles won since 2014, the Fenwick High School baseball team knows how to make a run toward the end of the season.
Saturday’s 3-2 victory over St. Joseph at the Priory in River Forest is hopefully a step in that direction for the Friars, who have been inconsistent at times this spring.
“We needed to win very badly. We haven’t been playing Friar baseball the last week,” coach Dave Hogan said. “It’s probably because of the long layoff we’ve had due to weather postponements and cancellations. We have a respectable record, but we haven’t gotten it all together yet.”
Senior pitcher Joe Runnells provided Fenwick (13-8) cause for optimism with a strong performance on Saturday.
The DePauw signee overcame some early control issues and shaky defense behind him to post a complete-game win, allowing two runs and five hits over seven innings.
“At the beginning of the game, I couldn’t get a curveball over for a strike,” Runnells said. “But as the game progressed, I got more comfortable with it and I felt good.”
After the Chargers scored a run in the top of the third inning to break a scoreless tie, the Friars rallied with three runs off St. Joseph starting pitcher Ben Mazzulla in their half. Mike Cerceo and Jack Grace hit RBI doubles and Charlie Wood added an RBI single.
Those three runs provided just enough support for Runnells, who escaped a few jams later in the game. The Chargers’ David Galandak hit an infield single, scoring a run in the fourth to pull St. Joseph within 3-2.
“Joe had a strong game,” Hogan said. “It’s tough as a pitcher when you don’t get defensive help in key situations. Our usually reliable defense the last week has been fumble city, but he was able to overcome it.”
Fenwick had almost as many errors (4) as hits (5) against St. Joseph. Nevertheless, a win is a win particularly against a scrappy opponent like the Chargers.
St. Joseph loaded the bases in the sixth, but Runnells induced an inning-ending groundout to first base. In the seventh inning with the tying run in scoring position due to a hit by pitch and subsequent passed ball, Runnells regained his composure and struck out Anthony Brown to end the game.
“I tried to stay focused and trust my defense behind me,” Runnells said. “I wasn’t trying to strike out the guy (Brown), I was just trying to get a ground ball to get out of the inning with no damage.”
As the season heads into the stretch run, both Hogan and Runnells believe that the offense needs to improve for the Friars to make a postseason run.
“Of our top five hitters, only one of them is swinging the bat well. The others are struggling,” Hogan said.” They seem to be overcompensating at the plate and getting a little frustrated.”
Runnells added, “We struggle at the plate as a team sometimes. We seem to lose our approach. But we’re in good shape because we have plenty of games coming up. Hopefully, we can get back on track.”
The Friars play a couple of games at notable venues this week. Fenwick faces DePaul on Thursday, May 10 at Kerry Woods Field in Chicago (7:30 p.m.) and De La Salle on Friday, May 11 at the home of the Chicago White Sox, Guaranteed Rate Field (2 p.m.).