SOFTBALL: Regardless of Tuesday’s result, freshman Mackenzie Barry (pictured above) has proved she belongs as the Ramblers’ No. 1 starting pitcher, according to Loyola head coach Michelle Farrell-Fink. 

Despite allowing seven earned runs in an 18-12 loss to Trinity at home in the GCAC Red opener, the right-handed Barry has an ERA of 2.19 and has struck out 35 in 22 1/3 innings over four starts. 

With Loyola (4-1, 0-1) ahead 8-2 after four, Barry ran into trouble in the top of the fifth inning. She surrendered two home runs before being relieved with an 8-7 lead. The Blazers scored 11 runs in the fifth and added five more in the sixth to go up 18-8. 

Farrell-Fink said she could tell Barry was ready for varsity after she pitched a complete game in a 3-0 win over Evanston at home on March 26. Barry struck out 17 and allowed three baserunners in seven innings. 

“I think she gained a lot of confidence from that game,” Farrell-Fink said. “She throws hard and is able to mix up her pitches well and hit her spots. She’s done a great job so far.” 

Barry is fortunate to have one of the best pitchers in program history as an assistant coach. Devin Miller (Class of 2009) was a four-year varsity player and led Loyola to its lone state title in 2009 before starring at University of Illinois-Chicago. 

Loyola junior and clean-up hitter Marisa Michi was a bright spot in Tuesday’s loss. She went 4-for-5 with a home run, four RBIs and three runs scored. 

Through five games, Michi is first on the team in batting average (.668), on-base percentage (.750) and OPS (1.938). She also leads the Ramblers in homers (2) and RBIs (14). Michi hasn’t struck out in 20 plate appearances. 

BASEBALL: In his first varsity season, Loyola junior outfielder Mikey Bednarek is making an immediate impact. Through Tuesday’s 9-3 win over DePaul Prep at Kerry Wood Field in Chicago, he is first on the team in batting average (.357), on-base percentage (.640), runs (12) and stolen bases (10). 

Most of his production has come since becoming the leadoff hitter March 27. In four games at the top of order, he’s batting .455 with an OBP of .684. During the stretch, the Ramblers (4-3) have won three out of four games and scored 48 runs. 

“He’s been an ignitor and catalyst for our offense,” Loyola head coach Nick Bridich said.”

Bednarek batted No. 7 in the opener and didn’t start the second game. He moved up to the No. 2 spot in the third game before Bridich inserted him into the leadoff role. 

“Mikey’s a great example for what I preach,” Bridich said. “He’s earned his playing time and starting role with an unbelievable attitude and work ethic. He brings a lot of passion and energy to the table.”

Senior left-hander Joe McKermitt struck out nine and allowed one earned run and one hit in six innings to earn the win Tuesday. Seniors Joe Birchard and Jake Novak both had two RBIs. Birchard scored two runs. 

The Ramblers start play in the Catholic Blue, arguably the best conference in the state, Monday against St. Rita. The Mustangs are ranked No. 13 by Prep Baseball Report. They are one of five teams in the league ranked in the top 25, led by St. Laurence at No. 2. 

BOYS LACROSSE: Seniors Nolan Chow and Najee Taylor each scored three goals apiece Tuesday as the Ramblers beat Mount Carmel 13-1 in Chicago. 

Juniors Kaden Keller (2 goals, 1 assist) and Branden Tait (3 assists) also contributed to Loyola’s season-high goal total.

Defensively, senior Cooper Prawdzik caused three turnovers and had three groundballs.

After earning a 9-6 win over St. Rita in the March 16 opener, the Ramblers (2-3) lost all three games on their trip to Maryland before bouncing back with a win.

BOYS VOLLEYBALL: The Ramblers fell behind in the race for the Catholic Blue championship Tuesday with a 26-24, 25-20 loss to St. Rita in Chicago. The Mustangs remained undefeated in league play at 3-0, while Loyola (11-3) dropped to 2-1. 

Senior outside hitter Jack Howard led Loyola’s offense with 10 kills. Senior outside hitter Henry Clemons contributed six kills. Junior setter John Hitt finished with 19 assists, while sophomore libero Ryan Merk totaled 12 digs and three aces.

Last weekend, the Ramblers went 4-1 at Wheaton Warrenville South’s invitational to finish fifth. Their lone loss was a 28-26, 20-25, 25-21 defeat to tournament champion Minooka in the final match of pool play Saturday. 

Hitt earned all-tournament honors after totaling 108 assists in 11 sets. Clemons and Howard both had a team-high 43 kills. 

Photo credit: Margo Grogan/Sports Depiction