After moving to cleanup spot, Webster recruit Ryan Hartz heats up for Brother Rice. ‘Big moments are fun for me.’

Whether he’s quarterbacking the football team or hitting in a big situation during the baseball season, Ryan Hartz isn’t afraid of the spotlight for Brother Rice.

So, it makes sense that the senior outfielder is thriving in a new role this spring that comes with a bit of a burden — batting in the cleanup spot in the Crusaders’ order.

“I’m enjoying it,” Hartz said. “It’s helping my confidence thinking to myself, ‘I’m the cleanup hitter.’ Knowing I’m going to come up to bat with runners in scoring position a lot is exciting for me.”

Hartz came through Friday night. The Webster recruit delivered two doubles, including one that drove in two runs in the first inning, to lift Brother Rice to a 5-2 win over host Evergreen Park.

Treylan Webster homered and Lewis recruit Chris Daugherty went 2-for-3 and scored two runs for the Crusaders (15-15).

Brady Cunningham allowed two earned runs in four innings to pick up the pitching win, while JD Maloney threw 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief and Illinois State recruit Jackson Natanek struck out the only hitter he faced to earn the save.

Cadyn Kummer went 2-for-3 with an RBI and threw 1 2/3 perfect innings in relief for Evergreen Park (22-9). Kummer’s brother Tyler, a Loras recruit, had the Mustangs’ only other hit. Grady Elwood stuck out five over 5 1/3 innings, allowing four earned runs.

Hartz got Brother Rice rolling early, ripping a two-run double to right-center in the first inning. He also doubled in the third and scored on sacrifice fly by Nolan Ramoley.

Brother Rice coach Sean McBride is confident about filling up the cleanup slot with Hartz, who is hitting a team-best .416 and is tied for the team lead with 22 runs and 20 RBIs.

“That was a spot that we’ve kind of shuffled around, and he’s kind of taken a stranglehold of it lately and gotten some big hits for us,” McBride said. “That’s kind of what you expect out of a senior and a two-year starter.

“He’s put together a good year. He’s really swung the bat well the last 15 games and his confidence has grown.”

Indeed, Hartz said he’s feeling better and better about his chances every time he steps up to the plate. The move to being fourth in the lineup helped with that.

“You can look at it both ways because you can say it’s extra pressure, but I try to look at it as a positive that my coaches and my teammates see something positive in me to make me the cleanup hitter,” Hartz said. “It gives me that extra push and that extra confidence.”

Webster said Hartz is doing a great job setting the tone for the Crusaders.

“He’s a senior, and he’s just been a heck of a leader,” Webster said. “He has a lot of stuff to carry on his back and he’s been doing it, upholding that captain’s spot. Props to him.

“He’s just a good person and a good baseball player all-around.”

Maloney, the only Evergreen Park resident on Brother Rice’s roster, helped make sure Hartz’s big hits would be enough as he turned in a brilliant relief effort.

“I know every guy on their team,” Maloney said. “It was fun. It was hard not to smile when I was pitching. I play with a lot of those guys in the summer, and it was fun to compete against them.”

Despite an up-and-down regular season, Brother Rice is hoping for another big playoff run after finishing second in the state last spring in Class 4A.

McBride confirmed the Crusaders will lean on Hartz in the playoffs, where he expects no situation to be too big for the senior leader.

And Hartz believes he will be ready.

“Big moments are fun for me,” he said.