Baseball: Sterling stuns Rochelle in IHSA 3A Regional Quarterfinals

Senior Noah Lara went 3-for-4 with two RBIs during the Rochelle Hub varsity baseball game against Sterling on Monday. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Golden Warriors rally for 13-10 win over Hubs on Monday

ROCHELLE — A fast start faded for the Rochelle Hub varsity baseball team during Monday’s IHSA 3A Rochelle Regional Quarterfinal matchup against the Sterling Golden Warriors.

Leading 9-3 after three innings including a seven-run effort in the third frame, Rochelle was unable to contain the Golden Warrior offense, which rallied for 10 runs over the final four innings including two four-run outbursts in the fifth and seventh frames to take a three-run lead entering the bottom of the seventh inning. The Hubs saw two batters reach base in the seventh inning, but a fielder’s choice groundout at second ultimately clinched Sterling’s 13-10 comeback win.

“We have to give them credit because they made tough at-bats and they hit the ball hard,” head coach Jarrod Reynolds said. “We just couldn’t seem to get out of many innings and I thought that was the biggest thing for us today. Nothing seemed easy for us today and they deserve credit for battling. It was unfortunate that some of their balls couldn’t find our fielders.”

The sixth-seeded Hubs (10-19, 4-10 Interstate 8) took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning, where senior Garrett Gensler belted a two-run double into the left-center-field gap to take advantage of a Sterling fielding error earlier in the frame. Sterling infielder Drew Nettleton doubled and scored on a wild pitch in the top of the second inning, cutting Rochelle’s lead to 2-1 before adding a two-run single in the top of the third inning that put the Golden Warriors ahead 3-2. Nettleton went 5-for-5 with five RBIs out of the No. 5 hole in the Sterling batting order.

Rochelle broke the game open in the bottom of the third inning, tallying seven runs on six hits and capitalizing on two more Sterling errors in the field. Freshman Brode Metzger pulled a hard ground ball to the left side with two outs and the bases loaded, resulting in an error that allowed two Hubs to score. Seniors Aidan Rodriguez and Noah Lara followed with two-run singles, while senior Colton O’Rorke added an RBI double up the middle to keep the Rochelle rally alive.

“I thought our at-bats were really good and I thought we made a lot of hard contact today,” Reynolds said. “Anytime we can score 10 or more runs, we should feel really good about our day. We made a lot of hard contact that seemed to go right at their fielders later in the game.”

Facing a six-run deficit, the eighth-seeded Golden Warriors earned two runs back in the top of the fourth inning, where lead-off batter Dylan Ottens sent an RBI triple to left-center before scoring on a throwing error. Sophomore Brandyn Metzger relieved senior Bradley Cooney on the mound in the top of the fifth inning, but the Hubs were unable to escape a bases-loaded jam, with Sterling scratching four runs on two RBI singles and a walk to tie the game at 9-9.

Rodriguez gave Rochelle the lead back in the bottom of the fifth inning, slapping a one-out double down the left-field line before scoring on a wild pitch two batters later. Junior Dylan Whaley, who entered for Metzger in the top of the fifth inning after the sophomore recorded only two outs, kept the Golden Warriors off the scoreboard over the fifth and sixth innings. 

The left-hander’s efforts helped the Hubs hold a 10-9 advantage entering the top of the seventh inning, where Rochelle found itself one out away from victory after Whaley induced a sacrifice bunt and a popout to second base for the first two outs. Sterling refused to back down, however, drawing a two-out walk before No. 3 hitter Braden Hartman crushed a two-run double to deep left field that gave his team an 11-10 lead. Nettleton capped off his stellar performance with another two-run double two batters later, this time to deep right field to make the score 13-10.

Rochelle’s first two hitters reached base in the bottom of the seventh inning, but consecutive flyouts and a fielder’s choice groundout ended the game with the tying run at the plate. Lara went 3-for-4 with two RBIs for the Hubs, while Rodriguez went 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

“I thought this group got better every single week,” Reynolds said. “Our hitting and our defense improved throughout the season and I thought we battled all day long. My message to the younger kids is that we need to get right back to work during the offseason.”