BASEBALL: Senior Joe Birchard (pictured above) had his best series of the season this week in Loyola’s two-game sweep of Marmion in the Catholic Blue. After beating the Cadets 15-14 on Tuesday at home, the Ramblers earned a 14-0 win in five innings Thursday on the road.
Hitting in the leadoff position and playing DH in both games, Birchard went 6-for-8 with eight runs scored, two RBIs and seven stolen bases. In 11 games, he’s batting .333 with an on-base percentage of .524. He has 11 stolen bases in 12 attempts and has scored 19 runs in 42 plate appearances.
“We have depth that needs to be explored, and we are giving guys opportunities to play,” Loyola head coach Nick Bridich said. “Joey is a hard-worker and one of our tougher kids mentally. He has one gear, and it’s to play hard. He’s really proven himself.”
Junior right-hander Michael Ellingsen surrendered three hits and no walks, while striking out seven in the complete-game win.
In the two games, senior Jake Novak went 3-for-5 with eight RBIs, five runs scored and four stolen bases. Senior Jack Moran was 3-for-4 with five runs scored and four stolen bases.
Juniors Mikey Bednarek and Colin Summerhill both continued to show they belong at the varsity level. Bednarek finished 3-for-4 with six runs scored, three RBIs and four stolen bases. Summerhill went 2-for-2 with five walks and two RBI-scoring sacrifice flies.
Bednarek is first on the team in batting average (.426), on-base percentage (.609), runs scored (28) and stolen bases (19) and is second in OPS (1.098). Summerhill leads in OPS (1.116) and doubles (10) and is second in batting average (.393) and RBIs (19).
“From Day 1, they’ve both been ultra-consistent,” Bridich said. “They are guys we can count on.”
“But we have a lot of guys trending upward.”
Loyola (11-7, 5-3) starts a two-game series with Mount Carmel on the road Saturday. The Ramblers host the Caravan on Tuesday.
WATER POLO: Loyola’s boys team beat Glenbrook South 14-6 on the road Tuesday and two days later received the No. 1 seed at the Glenbrook North Sectional. Glenbrook South is No. 2 followed by New Trier at No. 3 and Evanston at No. 4. The Ramblers (14-7) are 4-0 against those three teams this season.
“We did what we had to do to get it,” said Loyola head coach Mike Cashman, who started the season with three with significant varsity experience. “The guys are proud and excited of what they accomplished.”
Cashman, in his first season, said defense has been the backbone of the team. Junior goalie Jake Carr, junior Andrew Vagra and junior Noah Zahn are among those who have helped the Ramblers hold opponents to single-digit goals in 18 of 21 games.
“It’s a collective effort,” Cashman said. “It’s not one person. If one person isn’t doing what he’s supposed to do, it hurts us. We have to be selfless.”
According to Cashman, the offense continues to develop, evidenced by Tuesday’s output against the Titans. Senior Kenny Sajnaj scored six goals, while junior Kevin Considine finished with five. Zahn added two goals, and senior Brian Solmos scored one.
“We are showing our growth,” Cashman said. “Our kids are finding confidence, and that’s huge.”
Loyola will see several of the state’s top teams Friday and Saturday at Stevenson’s tournament. It will be good preparation for the MCAC tournament, which runs May 2-4 at Fenwick.
“I know it’s a cliché, but we take it one game at a time,” Cashman said. “We aren’t going to start looking ahead now.”
A year after finishing fourth at the state tournament, the Loyola girls team received the No. 4 seed at the Glenbrook North Sectional. New Trier is No. 1.
Both boys and girls sectionals start May 6.
BOYS LACROSSE: After beating New Trier 7-6 in overtime on April 16 in a rematch of last year’s state final, the defending state champion Ramblers went to Long Island, New York, and lost three games against some of the country’s best teams.
Loyola lost to Chaminade (New York) 16-3, St. Anthony’s (New York) 16-7 and Garden City (New York) 13-3. In the latest US Lacrosse poll, St. Anthony’s is No. 3, Garden City No. 5, Chaminade No. 12.
Undefeated against in-state opponents, the Ramblers (8-6) play St. Ignatius at home May 3.
Photo credit: Margo Grogan/Sports Depiction