Baseball: CL South’s Cole Tilley is perfect in pitching debut as Gators dump Richmond-Burton

Crystal Lake South’s Cole Tilley throws a pitch during a nonconference baseball game against Richmond-Burton Friday, March 24, 2023, at Crystal Lake South High School.

CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake South first baseman/pitcher Cole Tilley was relegated to the role of spectator/cheerleader last season during the Gators’ run to the Class 3A State Tournament, where they took fourth place.

Tilley threw three scoreless innings and was 4 for 7 at the plate before a fractured left fibula sidelined him for the rest of the season.

“I hope to be very effective on the mound again and make a bigger impact than I did last year,” Tilley said. “I also want to be effective at the plate and get a lot of runners in, a lot of RBIs.”

Tilley (6-foot-5, 198 pounds) is headed in that direction.

The left-hander fired three perfect innings and knocked in three runs as the Gators defeated Richmond-Burton 16-1 in four innings Friday in a nonconference game at The Swamp.

Tilley threw 37 pitches and struck out four batters as South moved to 3-0 for the season. He was unable to pitch last summer while working on rehabilitation for his injury, so this was his first organized baseball appearance since then.

“It was tough not being able to participate and being forced to watch,” said Tilley. “I kept my head up and knew I’d be back.

“I was working on getting the ball in the zone (today) and letting the hitters hit the ball and let my players make plays.”

Richmond-Burton’s Johnny Larsen tries to tag Crystal Lake South’s Ryan Skwarek as Skwarek slides into third base during a nonconference baseball game Friday, March 24, 2023, at Crystal Lake South High School.

Richmond-Burton (1-2) was the Class 2A state runner-up last season, but lost most of its starters to graduation.

“[Tilley] did a nice job of throwing strikes. He mixed his pitches and threw them all for strikes, so that was good to see,” Gators coach Brian Bogda said. “He’s coming off an injury from last year, so it’s nice to get him some opportunities here early on.

“He did a nice job against Richmond, who has put up some runs early this year. We thought it would be a good test for him, and he responded real well.”

The Rockets scored their lone run off reliever C.J. Regillio in the fourth inning.

“It’s a good first start coming back,” South center fielder James Carlson said of Tilley. “A lefty arm is always good. If we can get him rolling with Ryan [Skwarek] and James [Allie] and C.J., we’ll be pretty hard to beat.

“We’ve started hot. Our hitters are hitting, our pitchers are throwing strikes, we’re making plays out there. It’s a good start, just keep it going.”

South had 11 hits and stole four bases on the Rockets, although half of the Gators’ runs were unearned as R-B committed six errors.

“We hit the ball really well, and I was proud of how we ran the bases early,” Bogda said. “I would like to get some more bunts down, but I was really satisfied with the way we hit. We took the ball the other way really well.”

Tilley, hitting cleanup, got his first two RBIs on situational hitting, putting groundballs in play with a runner at third. He singled for his third RBI. Skwarek and Joey McEnery also drove in three runs apiece, and Regillio knocked in two.

R-B was without outfielders Zach Smith and Ethan Schoeps in its starting lineup, but Rockets coach Mike Giese was displeased with another aspect of the game.

“I’m not real happy about much. We have some growing pains we’re going through,” Giese said. “We’re missing a few guys, so we have a lot of guys out of position, which is fine. We didn’t hustle, we didn’t have much enthusiasm, we just didn’t show a lot today. That’s what’s disappointing. We’re going to fix some things and try to get better.

“We just have a lot of people playing out of position. But it doesn’t take take talent to hustle and have enthusiasm and to give off a positive vibe, and none of that happened.”

Richmond-Burton’s Carsten Szumanski makes a diving catch during a nonconference baseball game against Crystal Lake South Friday, March 24, 2023, at Crystal Lake South High School.

Crystal Lake South 16, Richmond-Burton 1 (4 inn.)

Richmond-Burton 000 1 – 1 2 6

CL South 285 1 – 16 11 0

WP: Cole Tilley, 1-0 (3IP, 0H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 4K). LP: Carsten Szumanski, 0-1 (1.2IP, 6H, 10R, 7ER, 1BB, 1K).

Top hitters – Richmond-Burton: Colin Kruz 1-2 (RBI). CL South: Joey Weldon 2-2 (R), Ryan Skwarek 1-1 (2B, 3RBIs), James Carlson 2-3 (R), Joey McEnery 1-1 (2RBIs, R), C.J. Regillio 1-1 (2RBIs), David Rankin 1-1 (RBI).