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Baseball: Brother Rice closing in on Catholic League Blue crown

By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Hitting in the seventh spot in the Brother Rice lineup, senior outfielder Nick Daugherty knows he will usually have a shot to drive in a run or two when he steps to the plate.

“It’s great,” Daugherty said “I think every time I come up to bat there’s a runner at second, at least. Amir (Gray) and Bryce (Nevils) in front of me could hit the ball 500 feet or lay a bunt down and get on first.”

Going back to a spring break trip to Georgia, when Brother Rice won the prestigious National High School Select Tournament, Daugherty has known the Crusaders have a special offense.

“Ever since Georgia, I realized that our lineup is a bunch of dudes and guys are going to get on base almost every single game,” he said. “If not, it’s a shock.”

Daugherty played his part in a 10-3 Catholic League Blue road win over St. Rita on May 4, producing three hits, two RBIs and two runs.

Beau Polickey, the Crusaders’ No. 9 hitter, had two hits, two RBIs and two runs.

The Crusaders (23-4, 13-2 entering this week) showed there are no easy outs in their lineup.

“Early on, we were getting carried a lot by our big names like Zion (Rose) and Jack (Lausch),” Brother Rice coach Sean McBride said. “Not that they’re not still doing that, but it’s more spread out now. When those guys at the bottom of the lineup are hitting and we’ve got everything clicking, we’re tough to beat.”

For St. Rita (13-11-1, 8-5), Sir Jamison Jones went 3-for-3 with an RBI and Miguel Cantu had two RBI singles.

After a two-run double by Christian Holmes gave Brother Rice the lead in the top of the first, the Mustangs answered right back in the bottom with RBI singles from Jones and Cantu to tie it 2-2.

Daugherty, though, started a rally for the Crusaders in the second with a leadoff double. He scored on Polickey’s single, and Polickey stole home on a double steal to make it 4-2. Brother Rice led the rest of the way.

“One through 11, we have guys that can hit the ball anywhere you want,” Daugherty said. “Everyone in the lineup has their role. When the top guys don’t put up their normal godly stats, the bottom has to pick it up. We did.”

Purdue recruit Cole Van Assen shook off some early struggles to hold St. Rita to three runs over 5 2/3 innings. He allowed eight hits but just one walk and struck out five.

“In the third inning, I got really comfortable,” Van Assen said. “I was throwing my curveball for a lot of strikes and that helped me a lot. I started getting ahead of hitters and that made it easier for me to keep my pitch count down and stay in the game longer.”

The Crusaders scored single runs in the third, fourth and sixth, then broke it open with a three-run seventh that included a two-run single by Daugherty.

The victory was the second over St. Rita in three days, following a 6-4 triumph on May 2. The Crusaders then trounced Loyola, 14-3, on May 7 in Wilmette.

Rice into this week 1½ games ahead of Mount Carmel atop the Blue standings, with three conference games remaining for the Crusaders and two remaining for the Caravan.

“You just want a shot at the end to play for it,” McBride said. “We control our own destiny. We’ll have fun with it and see what happens.”

Parker Baryl had two hits for the Mustangs, which was lamenting some self-inflicted mistakes with errors and baserunning mistakes.

“One thing we do is we battle,” St. Rita coach John Nee said. “But you know what? We make our lives so hard. We’ve faced all kinds of adversity this year and a lot of it is self-inflicted. We’ll battle until the end, but if we could figure out that mentality from the start instead of giving away all these runs early, then we’ve got something.”

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