Baseball: Hubs ready to shift gears next season

Junior Andy Buskohl will be a key returning player for the Rochelle Hub varsity baseball team next season. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Head coach Reynolds eyes offensive improvements

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Hub varsity baseball team saw its season cut short in disappointing fashion during the IHSA 3A Regional Semifinals against Dixon. With a large senior class departing and multiple junior starters returning to the fold, head coach Jarrod Reynolds and the Hubs will look to change their approach and rebuild for next season.

Rochelle finished 7-12 overall and 4-10 in the Interstate 8 Conference this season, splitting two-game sets with Sycamore and Sandwich while winning both matchups with Plano. The Hubs also collected two nonconference wins against Indian Creek and one victory over Rock Falls. Eight seniors will leave the varsity team including Oscar Linares, Spencer Warborg, Michael Schlenbecker, Sam Hacaga, Evan Meyers, Reese Kirk, Mark Hopkins and Kyler Lara.

“I’m grateful that we were able to play all of our games,” Reynolds said. “Our record wasn’t what we would’ve liked, but I thought the kids worked really hard in practice and they seemed receptive to some of the new things we wanted to do. They were a fun group to be around and I was really proud of them for their effort throughout the season. We were competitive in all but maybe three games this year. We just didn’t have enough bounces go our way this year.”

The Hubs collectively hit .277 with a .389 on-base percentage this season. Juniors Eric Briseno (.438) and Andy Buskohl (.365) led the Rochelle offense and were each named All-Conference Honorable Mentions. The Hubs ended the season with a 5.55 team ERA while recording 144 strikeouts and 84 walks. Junior Braden Alfano (2.65 ERA) received All-Conference First Team honors and could return as the varsity team’s go-to starting pitcher next season.

“I thought our pitching was pretty good,” Reynolds said. “I thought we did well on defense at times, but I think we’re looking for some improvements on the offensive side of the ball. We had a drought for a few weeks where we didn’t score enough runs. We need to add some bat speed and hit pitchers with velocity. We also need to find other ways to score runs. I think we’ve depended on a lot of home runs over the past few years, but we can work more on small ball.”

Alfano and Buskohl headline Rochelle’s top returning pitchers for next season. Juniors Nate Burdin and Josh Lloyd each earned starting roles in the outfield this season, while Briseno played both second base and third base on the infield. The Hubs will also look to their fresh-soph team, which finished 7-5 this year, for reinforcements as their build for next year.

“I’m really excited for next year,” Reynolds said. “We really like our incoming seniors and our fresh-soph team played really well. We think we should have a good mix of kids and we should be able to do well defensively. We think we can compete in the conference next year.”

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