The first Loyola player to attempt a stolen base this season was caught. In another game, someone was thrown out at trying to steal third.
Neither one of those outcomes bothered Loyola head coach Nick Bridich at all.
“Our approach is to be aggressive, and we want our players to be confident running the bases,” he said. “We want to be fearless and smart.”
Through 10 games, Loyola (7-2-1) has stolen 50 bases and is on pace for the most in Bridich’s six seasons. The Ramblers have converted an impressive 87.7 percent of their attempts.
In a 10-4 win in six innings over St. Joseph on April 10, Loyola stole a season-high 13 bases without getting caught. Senior Johnny Mejia, senior Matthew Raymond and junior Sean McLaughlan all stole three bases. McLaughlan stole home on the Chargers.
“Our job is to get a runner to the next base, and steals are out there,” Bridich said. “We want to challenge our opponents. We want to make them throw us out, which is a hard thing to do.”
McLaughlan, who’s been used mostly as a courtesy runner, leads the team with 13 steals. He hasn’t been caught, either. Senior Trey Torain is 7-for-7 on stolen bases this season. Raymond has six, while seniors Henry Haracz and Will Jackson both have five.
“I love it,” Torain said. “We’ve been working on it since the fall, and it’s paid off so well. It diversifies our offense. Even if we aren’t swinging the bats well, we can move runners around. Our mindset is getting to the next base.”
First-year assistant coach Kevin Garvey is in charge of Loyola’s baserunning program. A graduate of Riverside-Brookfield, he played baseball at Concordia University in River Forest, where he finished his career last season.
“He’s taught us so much,” Torain said. “It’s about having a plan when you get on base. He’s helped us take the guessing out of stealing a base.”
Bridich added: “Everybody has 100 percent bought into the system.”