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College Baseball: South Suburban College shows good finishing kick

Updated: June 24, 2014 6:29AM



Sputtering along at 11-13 in early April, South Suburban needed a spark.

Bulldogs coach Steve Ruzich wasn’t asking for anything crazy, just for his payers to give their all.

“We had a meeting and just talked about, ‘Guys, come to the field ready to compete, ready to battle,’ ” Ruzich said. “Since then, there was this belief of, ‘We can do this.’ It was everything coming together.”

South Suburban’s season came to an end over the weekend in the NJCAA Northern District Championship in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The Bulldogs lost two games Saturday in the double-elimination tournament.

South Suburban finished 36-20, ending the season on a 25-7 streak.

The losses came to two nationally ranked teams, a 10-2 defeat to No. 3 Iowa Western and a 10-5 loss to No. 8 Wabash.

“We played better, and the kids battled,” Ruzich said. “Iowa Western, that’s a different level, a team with two recent national championships. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. I’m proud of our guys.”

The midseason turnaround came for the Bulldogs as the weather turned, Ruzich’s squad packing in games as quickly as it could.

“We asked a lot of the guys, and they never complained,” Ruzich said. “I’ll remember the resilience of this team. You think they’re down and out, and they battle back. That’s all you can ask for, and one of the most positive things you can see as a coach.”

South Suburban outfielder Stephen Letz has signed to play with Northern Illinois next year while pitcher Joshua Pieper (Marian Catholic) will play for Trinity Christian.

St. Francis looks to build

His Saints came up short at the NAIA World Series, but St. Francis coach Brian Michalak is looking to the future.

St. Francis won its first two games at the NAIA Opening Round before dropping two straight.

“We can use this as a reference point,” Michalak said. “We played in the opening round, saw that competition and participated. We’ve got an idea of the level of play and what it takes to compete. We’re more familiar with the situation. That’s the hope.”

St. Francis’ 1-2 punch on the mound, senior Jake Butler (complete-game seven-hitter with seven strikeouts) and junior Adam Panayotovich (complete-game seven-hitter with six strikeouts), carried the Saints in their two wins.

The season-ending losses came to No. 17 Southeastern a 7-0 defeat, and No. 6 Georgia Gwinnett College, an 11-8 loss.

“We were playing some good competition, and runs were tough to come by,” Michalak said. “Everybody’s good at these tournaments. You’ve got to get ahead and can’t pitch from behind.”

Seniors Butler (10-2, 107 strikeouts, 2.02 ERA) and outfielders David Kuhne (.409 average, 59 runs, 19 steals) have received some interest from minor league teams, according to Michalak.



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