ROCHELLE — Smart base running allowed the Rochelle Hub varsity baseball team to score the deciding run during Monday evening’s Interstate 8 Conference series opener against Sandwich.
With the score tied at 6-6 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Rochelle senior Forrest Gerber reached on a one-out single before junior Bradley Cooney drew a hit-by-pitch to put two runners on base. Gerber and Cooney each advanced on a passed ball during the next at-bat, moving the go-ahead run to third base. Senior Nate Burdin couldn’t put the ball in play, but a dropped third strike that evaded Sandwich catcher Taylor Adams allowed Gerber to cross home plate.
The lone run was all the Hubs needed to secure the victory, with senior Josh Lloyd taking the mound in the top of the seventh inning and hurling his second shutout frame of relief as Rochelle held off the Indians 7-6. Senior Andy Buskohl started on the mound for the Hubs (4-6, 3-4 Interstate 8), throwing five innings and striking out seven batters. Buskohl also went 3-for-4 with a double and one RBI to lead the Rochelle offense in the home-and-home series opener.
“We have three more conference games this week, so it feels really good to start the week off with a win,” Buskohl said. “We have some tough opponents coming up, so we needed to come out here and win this first game. I made my pitches and the offense backed me up today.”
Rochelle took the early lead, scoring four runs in the bottom of the first inning. Burdin and Buskohl slapped back-to-back singles to lead off the frame before a Sandwich error allowed Burdin to cross home plate. Senior Braden Alfano brought Buskohl home with an RBI single and senior Owen Angell made the score 3-0 in the next at-bat, blasting an RBI double to left field.
After advancing on another Sandwich error, Angell scored on junior Noah Lara’s sacrifice fly for the final run of the frame. A trio of singles led to two runs for the Indians in the top of the second inning, but the Hubs responded with one run in the bottom of the second inning, where senior Grant Messer singled and Buskohl followed with an RBI double to center two at-bats later.
“We’ve had some guys come through in clutch situations over our last few games and we’ve put together some tough at-bats,” Buskohl said. “We’ve had the right guys at the plate during the right moments. We had a slow start to the season, but I think our win over Sycamore last week was a turning point for us. We just have to come out ready to play and we have to battle.”
Trailing 5-2, Sandwich scratched one run in the top of the third inning before Hunter Pavia’s bases-loaded, three-run double to right field gave the Indians a 6-5 advantage in the top of the fourth inning. The Hubs answered once again in the bottom of the fourth inning, with Cooney sending a double to right field and scoring on Burdin’s RBI single through the middle. Lloyd struck out two batters and didn’t allow any hits over the final two innings to secure the save.