Early offense keeps Brother Rice apart from Lockport; 16 runs on 14 hits earns St. Rita its first win

By Diego Solares
Illinois Staff

CRESTWOOD, ILL. – For the first time since we left DuPage Medical Group Field in Joliet, on June 8, 2019 for the IHSA 3A and 4A state championship games, the PBR Illinois team was on site to cover Illinois high school baseball once again.

On a partly cloudy Tuesday afternoon at Ozinga Field in Crestwood, as part of the perennial Do It Stevie’s Way Tournament, we took in the meetings between four Chicago-area programs, three of which are ranked on the PBR Illinois Preseason Power 25.


Game one featured two of the top 4A teams in the state, as the No. 2 Brother Rice Crusaders played as the home team against the No. 11 Lockport Porters. RHP Ben Guzek (2021; Maryville commit) toed the rubber for Brother Rice while RHP C.J. Byrdak (2022; uncommitted) opposed him for Lockport. 

It was the Porters who drew first blood in this one after SS Ryan Moerman (2021; Illinois) doubled down the left field line and later came around to score on a throwing error, giving Lockport a 1-0 lead heading into the bottom half of the first inning. The Brother Rice offense came alive early, however, as 3B Will Flanigan (2022; uncommitted) sprayed one into left field for a two-run double. He later scored after OF Cameron Hill (2021; Purdue) ambushed a hanging breaking ball into the left-center gap for a double. After a passed ball plated another run, the Crusaders entered the second inning with a 4-1 lead.

With two outs in the top half of the second inning, Lockport gained some momentum when Moerman worked a competitive count and shot a hanging curveball right back up the middle for a two-run blast to straightaway centerfield.

The Porters’ two hitter had three hits on the day and was all over everything that entered the zone, covering the plate with ease. Brother Rice added another run in the bottom half of the second inning and two more in the third after a Zion Rose (2023; Louisville) sacrifice fly and Luke Lawrence (2021; Webster) doubled down the third base line. The Crusaders totaled eight runs in this contest and only struck out twice, consistently putting pressure on the Lockport defense. 

Lockport managed to scrape one more run off Guzek before chasing him out of the game, but the senior right-hander controlled the Porters’ offense for a large portion of this contest. He hurled five quality innings, allowing just two earned runs and five hits, while striking out two. Guzek’s success came largely from his ability to spot his fastball at 83-85 mph on both sides of the plate and then pair his secondary offerings off his heater. He landed a low-70s curveball with some depth for strikes on the outer half of the plate and gained feel for a sinking changeup as his outing went on, too. 

1B Victor Izqueirdo (2022; Navy) collected two hits for the Porters, including a triple into the right-center gap that he barreled up in the seventh inning. Left-handed hitting C Connor Christian (2021; uncommitted) had two hits as well.

Arguably the biggest takeaway for the Porters in this game was the relief work of RHP David Zaragoza (2022; uncommitted). The 5-foot-9, 155-pound right-hander relieved Byrdak after just two innings and impressed, holding the potent Brother Rice offense to just three hits and he didn’t allow any earned runs, either. Zaragoza attacked the zone with a lively 83-86 mph fastball that played with a natural upward ride out of his hand. He also threw two distinct breaking balls; a high-arched, 12/6 curveball that was landed for strikes and a sharper, more aggressive slider thrown down-and-away to right-handed hitters. He looked the part of a true option for the Porters’ on the mound and could pitch his way into key innings for them throughout the spring. 

RHP Arturo Mora (2021; uncommitted) pitched two scoreless innings for the Crusaders and secured the victory after Guzek left the game. Brother Rice improves to 2-0 on the season and sets themselves up nicely from a playoff perspective in this tournament, while the Porters drop their season opener and fall to 0-1.

FINAL: Brother Rice 8, Lockport Township 4


The second game of this double-header featured a matchup between the No. 10 St. Rita Mustangs and the De La Salle Meteors. 

St. Rita jumped out to an early lead over De La Salle, scoring 10 runs in the first three innings and 16 runs in total. C Matt Rodarte (2021; uncommitted) started what would ultimately be a productive day for the senior backstop with a hard ground ball to left field that scored two. Rodarte would finish the day with three hits, a walk, and six runs driven in - an impressive performance from the Mustangs’ five-hole hitter. 

OF Steven Sanderson (2021; uncommitted) is another senior on this Mustangs’ squad that had an impressive day at the plate. Built at a strong 6-foot-1, 195-pounds, Sanderson jumped all over a fastball after being ahead 1-0 in the count and scorched it over the shortstop’s head for an RBI single in the first inning. He found the barrel again on a hard ground ball single back to center field in the third inning and hammered one down the right field line for a triple in his final at-bat of the game. 

Eight different players collected hits for the Mustangs in this one as they combined for 14 total knocks. Sophomore 2B Tommy Atkinson tripled, senior SS Tony Rath (2021; Mary Hardin-Baylor) doubled, and senior OF Brandon Buday (2021; Washington University, MO) added two hits as well. It was a strong showing for the Mustangs’ offense as a whole. 

The Meteors slowly started to make a comeback in the latter innings, scoring one run in the fifth and five runs in the sixth. Unfortunately, the Mustangs countered with six runs of their own in the top half of the seventh inning and secured a 16-6 victory over their opponents. St. Rita improves to 1-1 on the season, while De La Salle drops their opener and falls to 0-1.

FINAL: St. Rita 16, De La Salle 6