BROOKFIELD — Riverside Brookfield baseball has raced off to a hot start this season, and senior C.J. Duffek has been doing a lot of the racing.
Following Saturday’s doubleheader sweep of Illiana Christian, Duffek had 14 stolen bases in 14 games. The speedy center fielder signed his letter of intent with Division II Northwest Missouri State on Monday.
“Speed is definitely the biggest aspect of my game,” Duffek said. “I think that’s definitely what got me my scholarship. I like to use it to my advantage and I feel like speed is a real big part of baseball because it puts a lot of pressure on the team. Whether you can take second or take third almost any time you want it’s a big positive.”
As a team, RB isn’t shy about running. The Bulldogs have 76 stolen bases in 80 attempts. Duffek is one of three RB players with double-digit steals. Team-leader Eric Loury has 17 steals and Tom Leary has 12.
Throw in a .353 team batting average and it’s no surprise the Bulldogs entered Monday with a 12-1-1 record. As RB’s leadoff hitter, Duffek keys the offense that scored 39 runs in a three-game conference sweep of Illiana Christian over the weekend.
“He’s definitely our best base runner, a three-year varsity guy, great defensive player in the outfield,” said RB coach Dallas Till. “He’s just real savvy on the bases. When he gets a single a lot of times it’s a double just because of the stolen base threat.”
Duffek’s love of baseball started at a young age. The sport has always been in the family. His older sister, Jamie, played softball for Creighton and was an all-Missouri Valley Conference selection her senior year last spring.
“It’s a game where it’s you against someone else,” he said. “It’s a team game, but it’s as individual as it gets. You’re hitting against a pitcher. It’s you vs. him. You’ve got to get the job done. There’s nobody else to blame.”
He had interest from Division I programs like Evansville and Creighton but chose Northwest Missouri State. The Bearcats have a successful athletic program most notably known for its football team, which went to five straight Division II national title games from 2005-2009.
“The competition is a lot tougher out there,” Duffek said. “You definitely notice it. I want to be somewhere where I can feel at home for four years and concentrate on my grades and baseball. I figure I’m on scholarship so I’ve got a job to do, I’m getting paid for it.”