ROCHELLE — The wind blowing out to the north meant that any hard-hit balls deep to left or center field would have a great chance of leaving the park when the Rochelle varsity baseball team hosted Belvidere on Wednesday.
Junior Ethan Etes and senior Noah Knight took advantage of the conditions, with each player launching one home run to combine for five RBIs as the Hubs overwhelmed Belvidere by a score of 13-1 over five innings. Rochelle improved to 3-1 with the win.
“It feels good to be back,” said Knight, who missed his junior baseball season to rest an injured shoulder. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to help our team win this year… I think we have a chance to be really good offensively. We just have to keep hitting the ball hard, which is something coach [Jarrod] Reynolds always preaches to us.”
The Hubs dominated the first inning on Wednesday, scoring seven runs in the bottom frame after senior Johnny Beck pitched a shutout opening frame. Junior Gavin Ansteth led off with a double before senior Brandon Johnson singled. Senior Hayden Jones drove both Ansteth and Johnson in with a two-RBI single.
Leading 2-0, Rochelle added to its lead when Beck singled with one out and scored on a two-run homer to left field by Etes. Senior Andrew Johnson singled, and senior Zack Bernardin reached on a hit-by-pitch before both Hubs came home on Knight’s three-run homer to left-center field.
Beck had no trouble in the second inning, retiring Belvidere in order for the second time before Rochelle put the game out of reach with five more runs in the bottom of the second inning. Brandon Johnson (single), Jones (walk) and Beck (single) loaded the bases for senior Cody Johnson, who drew a walk to plate Brandon Johnson and make it 8-0 Rochelle.
Andrew Johnson reached on an error to score Jones, and Bernardin delivered a two-RBI single to left that brought both Cody Johnson and Andrew Johnson home to give the Hubs a 12-0 advantage. Cody Johnson doubled and scored on a passed ball in the bottom of the third inning for Rochelle’s final run of the game.
While the Hubs decimated the Belvidere pitching staff, Beck continued firing strikes, throwing three and one-third innings while striking out seven and holding the Bucs hitless. Knight entered in relief, retiring two batters in the fourth inning. Belvidere avoided the potential team no-hitter by Rochelle with an RBI single in the top of the fifth inning.
“It’s nice to have games like today when we score a bunch of runs,” Beck said. “My mindset is always to throw hard when we have a big lead and to try and avoid their barrels. I was mainly throwing two-seamers that were going off the ends of their bats… I feel that our offense can still be a lot better than it is right now, and we have some guys who I think will really come on during the middle of the season.”