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Baseball | Brother Rice seeking spark after two-loss week

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By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Brother Rice is missing some big pieces from the team that finished third in the state in Class 4A last season.

Multi-sport superstar Jack Lausch graduated and moved on to play quarterback at Northwestern. Catching star Zion Rose, a potential high Major League Baseball draft pick this summer, transferred to IMG Academy in Florida.

Still, the Crusaders have many key players back and a few new faces, and coach Sean McBride has big expectations for this season.

Those standards have not been met early in the season, as far as McBride is concerned, including in a 2-1 loss at defending Class 2A state champion Joliet Catholic on March 22 in a game that was called after 5½ innings due to darkness.

“There are no excuses,” McBride said. “We have a group that can win and should win, and we have leaders that are back. Last year is gone. We’re done with last year. It was a great year, but there’s plenty here.

“The expectations do not change for us. They shouldn’t and they won’t. We schedule hard for a reason, but we expect to win. That is the standard that we’ve set and anything short of that isn’t good enough. I want to challenge our guys to be tougher and more confident.”

The Crusaders (2-2) struggled against Hilltoppers lefty TJ Schlageter, a Louisville recruit, who held the Crusaders scoreless for five innings and struck out 11 batters.

Rice got something going in the top of the sixth after Schlageter departed. Purdue recruit Amir Gray singled and Western Kentucky recruit Bryce Nevils followed with a double.

Nevils, though, was stranded on third following back-to-back strikeouts.

The game was then called, which upset the Crusaders. McBride noted the time of the stoppage — around 6:15 p.m. — and thought it was much too early to end the game.

Nonetheless, it was the second defeat in as many days for Rice, following a 4-3 loss to Sandburg the day before.

It ended up being the final game of the week for the Crusaders, as a scheduled Saturday contest with Homewood-Flossmoor was postponed due to the forecast for bad weather.

As Rice preps for a spring break trip to North Carolina to take on a challenging field at the National High School Invitational, Nevils knows it’s time to pick things up.

“I’m here to be the captain of the team and make sure everyone’s energy is up,” Nevils said. “Right now, we’re struggling with that. Even though we’re young, we don’t care. We still need to compete as hard as we can. We set our bar as high as it was last year and we want to get to that same bar.”

Gavin Triezenberg, Jackson Natanek and Lance Moon each had a single for the Crusaders against Joliet Catholic.

Aiden O’Hara, Trent Guzek, Joshua Sutker and Jayson Polickey all had short but solid outings on the mound.

McBride was adamant that things need to change for Brother Rice to have success.

“It boils down to our will to win,” he said. “I just think some of it is the world we live in now. There’s just not that fire in a lot of our guys. It’s my job to find that. It’s my job to push the right buttons and get the right guys in there that are willing to lay it all on the line for Brother Rice. That’s what this program is owed and, right now, we’re just not getting it. That starts with me at the top.”

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