Baseball: Dixon cruises to regional title over Rochelle

Senior Johnny Beck struck out seven batters over three innings pitched during Rochelle's regional title game against Dixon on Saturday. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Johnson homers as Hubs fall short 8-2

ROCHELLE — Dixon pitcher Payton Lawrence had full control of his breaking ball during Saturday’s IHSA Class 3A Regional Championship game against the Rochelle varsity baseball team. The Hubs were unable to solve Lawrence throughout the day, and the Dukes scored at least two runs in three separate innings to win the title by a score of 8-2 and end Rochelle’s season. The Hubs finished 16-9 overall.

“Payton has the ability to throw hard, but I think he threw the breaking ball about 75 percent of the game,” head coach Jarrod Reynolds said. “We struggled to make the adjustment. We let too many first-pitch strikes go and we’d swing at the ball in the dirt. He was really tough on us and he had a lot of options during the game.”

Tucker Cole gave Dixon a 1-0 lead with an RBI single off Rochelle senior Johnny Beck in the bottom of the first inning. The second-seeded Dukes scored two more runs in the bottom of the third inning, with Finn Brandon’s infield single and Lawrence’s RBI double making it 3-0 over the third-seeded Hubs.

Rochelle put itself back in the game when senior Cody Johnson belted a two-run homer to left field off Lawrence in the top of the fourth inning. After Dixon reached two runners in the bottom of the fourth inning, Johnson took over on the mound for Beck, who finished with seven strikeouts.

An error at third base allowed Dixon to go ahead 4-2 before back-to-back walks led to another Duke run. Another Rochelle error at first base in the fifth inning led to two more Dixon runs, and the Dukes led 7-2 entering the sixth inning.

“We didn’t play very well,” Reynolds said. “We struck out 15-or-16 times and we gave them a lot of free bases. That’s not a recipe for success against a good team… We started swinging and missing a lot as the season went on. We talk a lot about seeing the ball and timing, but we started struggling for whatever reason. Baseball’s a fickle game like that.”

Dixon tallied its final run in the bottom of the sixth inning before Lawrence completed the victory with two strikeouts for the final outs in the seventh inning. The Dukes will advance to the IHSA Class 3A Sectional at Sycamore this coming week. Rochelle ended the game with only four hits.

“We have to continue getting better,” Reynolds said. “It’s about putting the work in and knowing that we’ve done everything we can to get better. Our kids need to have a good summer and put time in the weight room and on the practice field.”

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