Mike Zunica has been coaching baseball at St. Rita for 19 years. The Mustangs have been nationally ranked for the last ten. But the program has never reached these heights before: MaxPreps has St. Rita ranked No. 3 in the country. There isn’t another school from a cold weather state in the top 15.
“We have a lot of tough kids and we have a lot of unselfish kids,” said Zunica. “Nobody cares who gets the credit on the team, they just want to win baseball games. And when you have tough kids that have that mentality it’s going to be a fun team to coach.”
No big egos on the diamond for St. Rita, but the players are well aware of the lofty national ranking.
“In the dugout you can’t really ignore that kind of stuff but we don’t look into it that much,” said junior Danny Gleaves. “It’s nice for the school but we don’t let it get to our heads.
Senior Tyler Halas, a Tennessee recruit, dominated Fenwick on Wednesday in River Forest. The right-hander threw six and 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up the win in the Mustangs’ 4-0 victory.
“The wind helped out a lot with the fastball and curveball,” said Halas. “It was carrying my curveball into the strike zone.”
Halas (6-0) scattered seven hits, struck out four and walked four. Senior Dan Budziak came in with runners on first and third and two out in the seventh inning. He retired Fenwick’s Jack Hendricks to close out the game.
“We don’t ever mess around with arms,” said Zunica. “As soon as a guy says he’s starting to get a little tired that’s it. Automatic. We never put winning in front of a kids’ best interests.”
St. Rita ran off 26 consecutive wins to start the season last year. The Mustangs are now 21-0.
“We try not to think about (being undefeated),” said Halas. “It’s a lot of pressure. I’m sure we think about it every day but we just go out there get some runs, get some hits, play good defense and win the game.”
Gleaves made a spectacular catch of Ryan Pierson’s drive to the right field warning track with a runner on second in the seventh inning.
“It’s just tough getting the right jump because the wind turns it around every once in awhile,” said Gleaves. “You just have to make sure you are running on your toes so your head isn’t bobbing.”
Fenwick (9-5) made errors on two of the first three plays of the game while the Mustangs were rock solid.
Gleaves was 1-for-4 with a run scored and two RBI. Halas drove in Gleaves with a triple in the first inning and then he stole home while Marty Bechina was caught in a rundown between first and second.
“That’s a pretty set play,” said Gleaves. “We get a big lead and try to make it home before he gets out. That was pretty close. I looked back at Marty and saw it would be close so I started hustling towards home.”
The Mustangs led 2-0 after one and tacked on another two runs in the second inning.
Quinn Snarskis, a St. Joseph recruit, pitched the complete game for the Friars. He gave up three earned runs on seven hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
“I was just trying to keep us in it, we battled,” said Snarskis. “It hurts to get the loss but there were a lot of positives in this game for us too. You always want to beat that top team. Just unfortunately some balls didn’t fall.”