ROCHELLE — The bats were heating up for the Hubs junior varsity baseball team Tuesday afternoon, but a fast start on offense wouldn’t be enough to hold off the Crossroads Academy Crusaders, who scored the game-winning run in the top of the eighth inning to defeat Rochelle by a score of 7-6.
Sophomore Brandon Johnson started the game on the mount for the Hubs, tossing four innings and striking out seven while walking just two and yielding three earned runs. Rochelle took the lead 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning off an RBI single by junior Eric Sanders, and after Crossroads put three runs up in the top of the second inning, Johnson connected on a towering drive over the fence for a grand slam to put the Hubs up 5-3.
“We got a couple guys on base early and Brandon had a great swing,” head coach Jarrod Reynolds said. “I think he’s going to do a lot more of that in the future. We just got base runners on and we barreled some balls up. It would’ve been nice to keep adding the rest of the game but unfortunately we weren’t able to do that.”
In a game that featured several Hub sophomores, Michael Eyster drew a walk and scored Rochelle’s sixth run of the game in the bottom of the third inning to give RTHS a 6-3 lead. Sophomore Zach Bernardin went 1-for-1 with a single and a walk in the game, while fellow sophomore Noah Knight went 2-for-2 with two singles, two runs and a walk in the leadoff spot.
“It was really nice to get those kids in some games and get them some action to see what they can do,” Reynolds said. “We haven’t had many games yet so sometimes it’s just nice for kids to have opportunities. Overall, we had a lot of kids get playing time and we had a lot of kids who haven’t pitched much get some experience.”
One of those kids is junior Noah Mershon, who threw the final three innings of regulation and struck out four batters. The Crusaders tied the game 6-6 in the fifth innings with another three-run frame, and with both teams going scoreless in the sixth and seventh innings, Rochelle and Crossroads headed into extra play.
Sophomore Cody Johnson, who went 1-for-3 with a single and a run scored in the game, pitched the eighth inning for the Hubs, fanning one batter but walking two more. With a runner on second base, Johnson attempted to fire a pickoff attempt to sophomore first baseman Hayden Jones, but the low throw resulted in a past ball that allowed the Crusader runner to score and give Crossroads a 7-6 lead. The Hubs went down in order in the bottom of the eighth inning to end the game.