By Pat Disabato – Daily Southtown
Whether he’s penciled in at one of the infield spots or exclusively as designated hitter, Brother Rice junior Ryan Maher promises to have the same mindset at the plate.
“I just focus and take it one play at a time,” Maher said. “Try to get my pitch and drive it.”
Maher executed that strategy effectively as the DH, going 3-for-4 with three runs and three RBIs in Thursday’s 9-1 win over visiting Sandburg.
Two of Maher’s hits for Brother Rice (3-1) came off of Sandburg pitcher Evan Tenuta, a Notre Dame recruit.
“I’ve been swinging the bat pretty well,” Maher said. “I was able to get ahead and attack the first pitch fastball. It’s all about helping the team.”
With Indiana recruit Sam Jones at third base, Illinois State commit Patrick Hayes at shortstop and Oklahoma-bound Marquise Jackson at second base, Maher will likely see considerable time at DH. He batted seventh vs. Sandburg.
Brother Rice coach John McCarthy said Maher’s hard work during the offseason is paying off.
“He’s gotten bigger and stronger,” McCarthy said. “He can do a lot for us. He was outstanding (Thursday).”
Maher delivered a two-run triple in the fifth inning that extended Brother Rice’s lead to 6-1. He could have had a fourth hit, but his line drive in the sixth was hit directly at Sandburg center fielder Matt Sczurek.
Mike Bolton and Kendall Pettis, both juniors, drove in runs and sophomore Jack Payton added a two-run single.
Bolton confirmed he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder after suffering through an inconsistent 2017 season.
“For me, it’s about working hard every day,” Bolton said. “I try to use my speed to disrupt things and do whatever I can to help the team.”
Senior Ryan Palmblad (2-0) picked up the win, allowing one run on four hits and striking out three. Zach Litke notched his second save with three innings of scoreless relief.
“Ryan came out ready to pitch and pounded the zone,” McCarthy said. “It was great to see.”
There were a few bright spots for Sandburg (0-1) in its season opener. Branden Comia, an Illinois recruit, went 3-for-4 with an RBI, and Andrew Tenison reached base three times.
Tenuta allowed four runs, three of which were unearned, on five hits. The right-hander struck out five and showed good pop on his fastball.
“We were sloppy,” Sandburg coach Jim Morsovillo said. “We were not in tune at all. But it’s the first game of the year. We’ll get better.”