By: John Nee '93
On Saturday, May 6, 2017, the St. Rita community came out in full force to honor retiring head baseball coach Mike Zunica. In a moving, hour-long, pre-game ceremony Zunica was honored for his 21 years of service to St. Rita of Cascia High School as Head Baseball Coach. Zunica, who is retiring at the conclusion of the 2017 season to allow him to follow his son’s baseball career at Kansas University, will remain at St. Rita as President.
During the ceremony, which was attended by hundreds of family, friends, former players, and former teammates and coaches, it was announced by St. Rita Chairman of the Board of Directors Ernie Mrozek that the St. Rita Baseball Field beginning with the 2018 season would forever be known as Mike Zunica Field. Zunica’s #13 was also retired and a special gift was presented to him by his coaching staff, a state-of-the-art hand-made rocking chair made of baseball bats commemorating his years of service.
Zunica then gave an emotional 25-minute speech thanking his parents, family, friends, and coaching staff before finishing with a touching tribute to the St. Rita Community, thanking them for accepting an “outsider” as he referred to himself and embracing him as a Rita guy.
As for the game, junior catcher Jake Zylman provided some early offense by cracking his fourth homer in the last five games, a grand slam down the right field line in the bottom of the first to give the Mustangs an early 4-0 lead. After Loyola scored two in the third and three in the fourth to tie the score at five, senior centerfielder Charlie Rodriguez cracked a two-run shot to right to give the Mustangs the lead for good. Senior Steve Washilewski then put the icing on the proverbial celebratory cake by cracking a three-run homer to deep left in the bottom of the sixth to provide the 12-5 winning margin. Sophomore Logan Strutz was great in relief picking up the win while throwing 2 2/3 scoreless innings.
The Catholic League Blue win capped off a very special day for the entire baseball program and particularly Mike Zunica and his family. It was a fitting tribute for the all-time wins leader in St. Rita Baseball history. It was a day neither Zunica nor his family will ever forget!