GENESEO — Most baseball teams wish they could score 10 runs per game. The Rochelle Hubs only needed one inning to surpass the 10-run mark when the purple and white faced Geneseo on the road Thursday in Game 3 of a three-game Northern Illinois Big 12 West series.
Leading 3-1 after two home runs, the Hubs exploded in the top of the sixth inning, scoring 12 runs and cruising behind senior Johnny Beck’s six-inning, 10-strikeout pitching performance to dominate the Maple Leafs 15-1 and improve to 12-3 on the season. Rochelle moved to 4-2 in the NIB-12 West.
“We knew we had a bad day on Tuesday but we also knew that wasn’t who we really are,” said senior Hayden Jones, who went 2-for-4 with two runs in the win. “Once one person gets it going at the plate, the next person becomes more confident to keep things going. We all follow each other.”
Both teams remained scoreless until senior Cody Johnson’s solo shot gave Rochelle a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning. The Hubs added another run after senior Andrew Johnson doubled and scored on senior Zack Bernardin’s RBI single. Geneseo walked and singled to score one run in the bottom of the second.
“I’ve been struggling to hit lately but my approach was to look for a pitch on the inner third of the plate,” Cody said. “Our coaches told us how big the game was and how important it was for us to win. We were hoping to sweep, but after Tuesday’s game didn’t go our way, we had to go out and give it all we had.”
Senior Brandon Johnson launched the first of his two home runs in the fifth inning, a solo blast to give the Hubs a 3-1 advantage. Rochelle’s 12-run sixth inning began with Beck’s grand slam to center that put the Hubs up 7-1. Junior Ethan Etes plated one run on an RBI triple, and Cody Johnson’s second home run of the game, a two-run bomb, pushed Rochelle ahead 10-1.
“It was really important to win and we really needed the confidence boost after getting shut out on Tuesday,” Etes said. “Our message was to hit the ball hard and make routine plays in the field. I feel that I can bring a lot of base hits to our offense and I like to have fun in the dugout. I’m pretty aggressive at the plate.”
Two walks and one single by Jones loaded the bases again for Rochelle. Senior Noah Knight walked for one RBI, and Brandon Johnson cleared the bases on a grand slam to left-center that gave the Hubs a 14-run lead. On the mound, Beck held the Maple Leafs to only three hits and two walks.
Rochelle will enter its three-game series with LaSalle-Peru this coming week hitting .367 as a team. The Hubs have four players batting at least .400 including Beck (.511), Brandon Johnson (.490), Cody Johnson (.405) and junior Gavin Ansteth (.400). Rochelle pitchers have struck out 142 batters in 97.1 total innings thus far, an average of 10.2 strikeouts per game. The Hubs are seeking their second consecutive NIB-12 West title.
“I know that hasn’t been done here very often,” Cody said. “We want to win the conference and we want to win a regional this year.”