By: John Nee '93
The varsity baseball team took their annual spring break trip to Georgia this year to compete in the Rawlings Select Classic #1 at Perfect Game Park. Coach Mike Zunica’s squad won their first two contests against stiff competition, advancing to the semifinals of the prestigious invite-only tournament, before dropping their final two games of the tournament to finish in fourth place out of the 14-team field.
In the opener on Thursday, March 23, the Mustangs beat Greenwood (AR) 5-0 behind a dominant pitching performance from Andrean transfer Justin Ruthrauff. He threw a complete-game shutout allowing only four hits while striking out seven and walking one. Ruthrauff outdueled Arkansas commit Connor Noland on the mound. Seniors PJ Raines and Blake Soria provided RBIs for St. Rita.
On Friday staff ace Steve Washilewski (Kansas) took the bump and turned in an equally impressive outing. Washilewski dominated Briarcrest Christian (TN) for six innings allowing one run on three hits while striking out eight. The Mustang offense exploded for 12 runs against Alabama commit Connor Shamblin behind seniors Matt Verdun (Lewis) (4 RBIs) and Charlie Rodriguez (3 RBIs) as St. Rita advanced to the semifinals with a convincing 12-1 win.
On Saturday morning it was senior Matt Verdun’s turn on the hill as the Mustangs were matched against the marquee team in the tournament Cullman (AL) who came into the game ranked 9th in the country. St. Rita fell into an early hole falling behind 5-0 after two innings, and they were never able to recover as Mississippi State commit Will Morrison held the Mustang offense in check as Cullman defeated the Mustangs 6-1.
In the 3rd place game against Savannah Christian (GA), the Mustangs jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a Frank Napleton ground ball, but despite the efforts of sophomore Logan Strutz (4 innings, 1 run) the Mustangs fell 6-2 to return home with a disappointing 4th place finish.
The Mustangs are ranked #4 in the pre-season Southtown Star poll. After another week of non-conference tune-ups, St. Rita will open Catholic League play on Saturday April 8 at DeLaSalle.