ROCHELLE — Eight unanswered runs highlighted an impressive rally by the Rochelle varsity baseball team when the Hubs opened Northern Illinois Big 12 West competition against Ottawa on Monday.
Senior Brandon Johnson’s three-run homer accounted for half of the Rochelle runs scored in the bottom of the fifth inning. Senior Johnny Beck belted a two-run homer to right field in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the Hubs came back from a 6-1 deficit to take down the Pirates 9-6 and improve to 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the conference.
“We showed that we can play through some adversity,” Johnson said. “We came back and won against a pretty good team. We never stopped hitting, and we knew we would score if we continued to swing the bat. We have a chance to be really good in the conference.”
Rochelle held an early lead on Monday, with junior Gavin Ansteth walking and scoring on an RBI single through the middle by junior Ethan Etes to strike first. Ottawa tied the game 1-1 on a bases-loaded walk in the top of the second inning, and the Pirates added five unanswered runs over the third, fourth and fifth innings.
Ottawa tallied two singles and capitalized on one Rochelle error to take the lead 2-1 in the third inning, and the Pirates utilized two singles and one walk to go up 4-1 in the fourth inning. Two more singles, an error by the Hubs and a hit-by-pitch led to two runs for Ottawa in the fifth inning.
Trailing 6-1 and needing some offense, senior Noah Knight and Ansteth singled to begin the bottom of the fifth inning. Johnson’s home run cut the Ottawa lead to 6-4, and after senior Hayden Jones reached on a dropped third strike, Beck made the Pirates pay with an RBI double to right-center field.
Senior Cody Johnson reached on a one-out RBI single to plate Beck and tie the game 6-6. Back-to-back singles from seniors Andrew Johnson and Zack Bernardin allowed Johnson to score and give the Hubs a 7-6 advantage. Jones began the sixth inning on the mound, recording one out before Johnson entered in relief.
“I wasn’t sure if coach [Jarrod] Reynolds was going to put me in or not,” Johnson said. “Coach asked how my arm was feeling and I said it felt fine. I came in trying to throw hard and throw strikes, and I didn’t want to let them hit the ball.”
Johnson entered the game with two runners on base, but the senior struck out back-to-back batters to close out the sixth inning. Beck’s home run gave the Hubs a 9-6 lead, and Johnson recovered from two walks in the seventh inning to strike out the final Ottawa batter on a full count to seal the victory.
“It was nice to get back out here,” Johnson said. “We tried to put the ball in play and we tried not to do too much. We were able to get runners on base and we were able to get them around and score.”