John Riordan, St. Laurence roll into Elite Eight

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After graduating a bunch of go-to guys this spring, St. Laurence had to figure out who’d be filling that role going forward.

Put John Riordan near the top of the list now.

The rising senior picked up his third win in four days on Thursday, working five innings to help the Vikings roll by Chicago Christian 9-3 at Richards in a regional final of the Phil Lawler Classic summer baseball tournament.

St. Laurence (14-2) heads to the western suburbs next week for the Lawler Classic Elite Eight, which begins with pool play Monday. The Vikings will open against Prospect, the Lake Park Regional winner, at 10 a.m. Monday at North Central College.

Riordan (3-for-3) helped stake himself to a quick lead, driving in two runs with a two-out single in St. Laurence’s six-run top of the first.

But the righty hit two batters and walked another as Chicago Christian cut the lead in half with three runs in the bottom of the inning. Then Riordan walked Brian Finger to start in the botton of the second, and St. Laurence coach Pete Lotus was getting anxious.

“We were close to getting him out in the second,” Lotus said. “Then he kind of found a groove and it was great to see.”

Indeed. After Finger’s walk, Riordan retired seven Knights in a row and 10 of 11. Chicago Christian (15-4) didn’t get another runner to third base before Riordan turned it over to the bullpen in the sixth.

“First couple innings, curveball wasn’t going over, fastball was high in the zone,” Riordan said. “I just needed to calm down. First pitch strike was big, and once I got ahead, I just let them hit the ball and let the defense make the plays.”

And he let the Vikings keep padding their lead. Jack Cavanaugh (2-for-4), who singled home a run in the first, did it again in the third, and Nick Verta (2-for-3) added a sacrifice fly. The Vikings, who also had two hits from leadoff man Tom Farrell, scored their final run with the help of an error in the fifth.

Riordan was glad to see the adding on.

“Can’t go through droughts,” he said. “Sometimes we score (but) we don’t really bury teams though. Got to make sure we hit all game. We’ll be all right.”

Lotus believes that as well.

“We talked about it at the beginning of the summer,” he said. “We knew what people’s perception would be once we lost all those guys. We tried to approach it as a little chip on our shoulders.

“I like to think these guys are just as good (though) they might not have had the opportunities those guys had early on.”

Some missed chances cost Chicago Christian, in coach Eric Brauer’s opinion.

“Not going to point the finger at any particular situation or player or pitch or anything,” he said, “but we had a chance to get out of the (first) inning. We didn’t get out of the inning and they got six.”

The comeback encouraged him.

“I love the fight in the first inning, but I did not love the fight we showed for the next few innings,” Brauer said. “Even though we didn’t do a lot, I felt like we battled in a lot of our at-bats (Wednesday). We really competed. Today we gave away a lot of at-bats.”

Losing pitcher Tyler Edgar and Trevor Wolterink each had two of Chicago Christian’s four hits.

The loss aside, the Knights had plenty of highlights for the summer, including the most wins in Brauer’s seven seasons (15) and the first time advancing past Monday of regional week.

“It’s hands down the best summer we’ve had in my time here,” Brauer said.

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