St. Rita High School baseball coach Mike Zunica has seen the worst and the best of his Mustangs in the last week.
Saturday, they were slammed by St. Ignatius, 10-0.
Four days later, the Mustangs hung that same 10-0 score on Mount Carmel.
And earlier this month, St. Rita defeated St. Ignatius, 11-1.
Welcome to the incredible and wacky Chicago Catholic Blue, baseball version, in which these city Catholic rivals live to beat up on each other for a coveted league championship, then pounce on each other again in the state tournament.
Football was no different, in which powerful Mount Carmel was upset by Providence Catholic 6-2 last fall only to turn around and give league champ St. Rita a battle in a highly-anticipated game that drew more than 10,000 fans to St. Rita High School‘s stadium.
“This is going to be a battle,” Zunica said. “Loyola is going to get somebody, Fenwick. People are going to be got. You play four league games in a week, so it’ll be interesting.
“This is a great league.”
Of the eight schools in Chicago Catholic Blue, four are ranked among the city’s top 10 baseball teams with a combined record of 47-13, including No. 1 Brother Rice (13-0). The same four -- Brother Rice, St. Rita, Mount Carmel and St. Ignatius -- reached the Class 4A regional finals last year, with Brother Rice going to the Supersectionals before losing to Orland Park.
Loyola, not among those ranked teams, won its first three league games this season.
This is a league race not for the faint of heart.
“You have to play your best every day. It’s the Catholic League. It’s on the line every single game,” St. Rita’s Shane Conlon said.
St. Rita (15-2, 2-1 Catholic Blue) has been in the midst of this battle before. The Mustangs were chasing Brother Rice for the league title last year when late-season losses to St. Ignatius bumped St. Rita to second place. They lost three consecutive games to Brother Rice.
“What it’s going to take to win the league is what it’s been taking every year for a while. Last year we got stung by St. Ignatius, that cost us the championship,” Zunica said.
St. Rita’s strong pitching staff includes Scott Marinier, a Central Michigan recruit who has won his first six decisions and had the five-inning, shutout win over Mount Carmel. Despite a season in which the Mustangs’ only losses were to Whitney Young and St. Ignatius thus far, Zunica wants to see his team play smarter on the base paths and not depend so much on the pitching staff to hold leads.
“We know we’re dancing with the devil here. We know we’re not playing good baseball. We know that it’s going to come back and bite us. Who knows when it’s going to be, but it is going to come back and get us unless we get it figured out,” Zunica said.
Sound a bit harsh for a team that was 10-1 at the time of his comment? It comes with the high expectations of a school that wants to contend for state championships and in a league full of other teams thinking the same thing.
Halfway through the season, St. Rita and everybody else in the Catholic Blue is chasing Brother Rice. Again. The Crusaders, ranked No. 20 in this week’s MaxPreps Xcellent 25, have won their first 13 games with a hitting attack that has produced 135 runs. They totaled 20 home runs in Brother Rice’s first 10 games. Bobby Schuch, a Bradley recruit, and Kevin Callahan have each hit 400-foot homers.
“The kids are aggressive and they’re not swinging at bad pitches,” Brother Rice coach Tim Lyons told the Daily Southtown.
The schedule gets interesting from now on. Brother Rice will play three games in the next four days. Looming at the end of the regular season are huge games with St. Rita: May 13 at Brother Rice and May 16 at St. Rita.
Girls Soccer: Unbeatens Loyola, Lake Forest to meet
After an 11-0-1 start, Loyola’s girls soccer team isn’t an unknown now.
The Ramblers demonstrated their soccer domination in Chicago’s Pepsi Showdown, blanking St. Ignatius 2-0 in the championship game April 5 at Toyota Park, home of the Chicago Fire. The Ramblers were unbeaten in their first 12 games, winning 11 times. They outscored their opponents 13-2 in five games in the Showdown, and entered the tournament unseeded.
At the same time, Lake Forest won its own tournament, the Lake Forest Snowbowl last weekend, and has blasted out to a 9-0-1 start.
Monday at Lake Forest, the soccer powers will meet.
Loyola is battling New Trier for the top seed in the upcoming Class 3A Evanston sectional. Among its offensive stars is Allison Suhey, a daughter of former Chicago fullback Matt Suhey. Allison Suhey was MVP of the Pepsi Showdown and scored a goal in the title game.
Lake Forest has multiple attackers who can score. Kasey and Rachel Quon are among the Scouts’ offensive leaders. Rachel Quon scored the game-winning goal for a 1-0 victory over Stevenson in the championship game of the Snowbowl.
More Girls Soccer: Neuqua Valley scores big wins
Shelbi Johnson scored three goals in two games, leading Neuqua Valley to a pair of impressive victories: 2-0 over rival Waubonsie Valley on Monday and 3-1 over Naperville Central last Saturday. Johnson scored both goals in the game against Waubonsie Valley, which had defeated Neuqua Valley five consecutive times.
“We were so pumped up after Central that we wanted to just come out here and take it to (Waubonsie). That is what we’ve been waiting for,” Johnson told the Naperville Sun.
Neuqua Valley has won 10 of its first 12 games; Waubonsie is 5-3 after going through the previous two seasons unbeaten.
Softball: Gardner leads no-hit parade
Brittany Gardner of Sandburg, a Loyola, Chicago, recruit, no-hit New Trier for her eighth win of the season Saturday. Gardner (8-3) struck out 14 in the 2-0 win over New Trier.
Also joining the no-hit parade was Burlington Central’s Mackenzie Scott, who won her fifth game in six decisions with a 10-1 no-hit victory over Princeton. She also no-hit Princeton for four more innings in the second game of the doubleheader, and wound up with 27 strikeouts Saturday…
Meg Kelley of Mt. Assisi had a no-hitter and a one-hitter in the same day, leading Mt. Assisi to 13-0 and 11-0 wins over Regina.
Morton won 11 of its first 12 game, and pitcher Vlasta Mangia had 10 of the wins. She gave up just two hits and a 5-3 win over Queen of Peace.
Marengo’s Mattie McGuire struck out 14 and walked two in a no-hit 6-0 win over Winnebago. It was Marengo’s 14th win in 15 games.
Girls Basketball: Bartlett forfeits 17 wins
The Illinois High School Association’s board approved Tuesday a ruling that is forcing Bartlett High’s girls basketball team to forfeit all 17 wins because one of its freshmen, Ashley Santos, was ineligible.
Santos, one of the team’s stars, was an All-Area selection.
The trouble began when Santos and her sister moved from their family home in Elgin to a family friend’s home in Bartlett last fall. Both cities are western suburbs of Chicago. According to a report in the Daily Herald, family attorney Scott Larson said the move of the children was due to a possibility of the parents having to go overseas quickly to help an elderly relative.
The move from one school district to another was legal, but IHSA regulations require a court order to establish a legal guardian and therefore residency to compete athletically with the new school district.
“There’s a difference between the school code and the IHSA regulations,” IHSA executive director Marty Hickman told the Daily Herald. “The school felt she met entry standards per the school code, but she didn’t meet our standards.”
The IHSA will review Santos’ eligibility for the 2009-2010 season.
Track: Pinnick back with Waubonsie Valley
Shakeia Pinnick, an Arizona State recruit, may compete this spring with the Waubonsie Valley High School track team after all. Pinnick, who holds seven school records in events ranging from the 200 to long jump, was pulled from the team by her parents following a dispute with coach Jim Braun over practice time. Pinnick had missed some practices due to academic tutoring sessions, according to her parents.
Multiple news and online reports this week had Pinnick returning to the team as Braun and her parents have resolved the issues. Waubonsie Valley is one of the teams in Saturday’s Ram Invitational at Glenbard East High School in Chicago’s west suburbs.
Paul Bowker covers the Chicago area for MaxPreps. He may be reached at email@example.com.