ROCHELLE — Two games have quickly shifted power in the Northern Illinois Big 12 West varsity baseball standings. Despite entering the week atop the conference ladder, the Rochelle Hubs will have to avoid being swept by the Sterling Golden Warriors in order to defend their conference title.
After dropping their series-opener on Monday, the Hubs had a chance to split their first two games with Sterling by winning on Tuesday. But poor defense continued to hurt Rochelle, as a critical misplay at home plate in the top of the sixth inning allowed Sterling to take a one-run lead and ultimately win by a score of 2-1 to drop the Hubs to 13-5 overall.
“Sterling does a good job of throwing strikes but we don’t really look like ourselves right now,” head coach Jarrod Reynolds said. “We’re good hitters so we’ll get things right on track… We need to keep working on defense. When we’re in close games and we aren’t scoring a lot of runs, a lot of those little things become magnified.”
Senior Cody Johnson gave Rochelle a 1-0 lead with an RBI single up the middle that scored senior Brandon Johnson in the first inning. Cody Johnson took the mound for the Hubs, firing four scoreless frames until Sterling tied the game 1-1 on a walk and two singles in the fifth inning.
Rochelle prevented two more scoring chances from the Golden Warriors in the fifth inning, however, with Johnson picking off one runner at third base and another runner going down at home plate shortly after. Sterling’s Cooper Willman reached on an error to start the Golden Warriors in the sixth inning.
Willman advanced to third base before teammate Dylan Bryant flew out to center for Sterling’s second out. Willman initially didn’t try to score, but after Rochelle senior Noah Knight’s throw home bounced before catcher Gavin Ansteth and passed Johnson, who was backing up the play, Willman tagged to score and slid home safely to give Sterling the lead.
“We have to score runs to win,” Reynolds said. “Thursday’s a new day and we’ll need to get after it.”