ROCHELLE — With the temperatures dropping, the wind blowing wildly and Ottawa’s lead increasing, the Rochelle varsity baseball team dug deeper than ever before to pull off an improbable stunner against the Pirates on a cold and blustery Friday evening at Rochelle Township High School.
Ottawa seemed to be in full control, knocking Rochelle starting pitcher Cody Johnson out of the game after three innings and building a 10-1 advantage entering the bottom of the fourth inning. Junior Ethan Etes supplied Rochelle’s only run up to that point, a solo homer over the center-field fence in the bottom of the second inning.
What followed was unlike anything Rochelle baseball fans had seen before. Scoring seven runs in both the fourth and fifth innings before adding three runs in the sixth inning, the Hubs shocked Ottawa to salvage the three-game series victory, rallying to upend the Pirates by a final score of 18-13 to improve to 5-2 overall. Rochelle totaled a season-best 19 hits while smashing five home runs to complete the comeback.
“I heard Johnny [Beck] say to the guys in the dugout that, even if it’s 30-20, we were going to win this game,” head coach Jarrod Reynolds said. “The kids never gave up and they continued to play and have good at-bats… It was really fun to be a part of and the kids deserve all the credit. We always say there’s no clock in baseball and that other teams have to earn outs.”
Senior Andrew Johnson delivered a two-out, two-run single in the bottom of the fourth inning to cut the Ottawa lead to 10-3. The Hubs added two more to the scoreboard on RBI singles by seniors Louie Mancinas and Noah Knight, making it a 10-5 game before senior Brandon Johnson’s RBI single. Senior Johnny Beck continued the rally, reaching on an error at second base that scored two Hubs and made it 10-8 in favor of the Pirates.
Despite conceding three Ottawa runs in the top of the fifth inning, Rochelle picked up right where it previously left off. Trailing 13-8, senior Hayden Jones cranked a three-run homer to right-center field to bring the Hubs within two runs. After Mancinas and Knight reached base, Brandon Johnson game Rochelle its first lead of the game, belting his own three-run bomb to right-center. Leading 14-13, Beck added fuel to the fire, delivering a solo shot down the right-field line.
“We talk about about trying to do damage and hit the ball in the air,” Reynolds said. “The wind definitely helped but I think some of our home runs would have been gone anyway. The kids were definitely aware of the wind and they were looking for pitches to drive… They were really being aggressive.”
Jones took over the pitcher’s mound after relieving Andrew Johnson in the fifth inning, and the left-handed shut Ottawa down over the final three frames, allowing only one run on one hit while striking out four and walking none. Jones carried his strong pitching over to the plate, slapping his second homer of the game with one out in the sixth inning to give the Hubs a 16-13 lead.
Knight’s two-out double to center led to RBI singles from Brandon Johnson and Beck before the Pirates took over on offense. Ottawa’s first batter reached on an error in the seventh inning, but Jones retired the final three hitters in order to close out the win.
“This was the craziest game at the high school level that I’ve been a part of,” Reynolds said. “Both teams went back and forth. I don’t think we’ve scored 17 runs over our final three at-bats since I’ve been the head coach. It seemed improbable, but we have really good hitters and fortunately we were able to do it today.”