By: John Nee '93
The 2017 season went full circle for retiring head coach Mike Zunica on Sunday as his Mustangs continued their dominance of the most prestigious tournament in the state of Illinois claiming their third Steven M. Bajenski Memorial Tournament championship in the six years of the tournament’s existence.
As for going full circle, the Mustangs (27-8) travelled to Standard Bank Stadium on March 18 for Zunica’s final opening day as skipper of St. Rita. They came away with a 1-0 victory over Glenbrook North. On Sunday in their regular season finale, with the stakes a little higher, the Mustangs once again used pitching and defense at Standard Bank Stadium in a 1-0 win over Catholic League Blue rival St. Laurence to claim the illustrious title.
Senior Matt Verdun (3-3) was the star on the mound and at the plate for St. Rita against the Vikings. He pitched his first complete game of the season shutting out the potent St. Laurence lineup on only three singles while striking out five and walking five. Verdun also provided all the offense the Mustangs would need with a first-inning, run-scoring single following back-to-back walks to seniors Charlie Rodriguez and Justin Ruthrauff to lead off the game.
The Mustangs had to beat Catholic League rivals Providence 10-2 on Thursday at Wheaton College, and Mt. Carmel on Friday 11-1 at Standard Bank Stadium to advance to Sunday’s championship game against St. Laurence.
Verdun pitched out of two jams against the Vikings on Sunday. After loading the bases in the 6th, he induced the St. Laurence hitter to hit a sinking liner to center when Rodriguez dove to make the catch and ultimately save the game for St. Rita.