ROCHELLE — The Hubs varsity baseball team named four players on the Northern Illinois Big 12 West All-Conference First Team for their efforts during the 2018 season, while two players received All-Conference Honorable Mentions.
Senior Johnny Kisner and juniors Zack Bernardin, Brandon Johnson and Johnny Beck were given First-Team recognition this year, while seniors Riley Lodico and Noah Mershon earned Honorable Mentions. The Hubs finished 14-8 in 2018 while earning a share of the NIB-12 West title with a 9-3 record. It was Rochelle’s first conference title since 2006.
Beck shined for the Hubs on both sides of the ball this season. The left-handed junior hit .375 with a .457 on-base percentage while recording 21 runs and 10 RBIs. Beck led the Rochelle pitching staff with 58 innings of work, and he struck out 100 batters while finishing 7-1 with a 1.40 ERA.
“I feel like I did well at keeping hitters off balance when I pitched,” Beck said. “I became more of a leader by the end of the season. I would like to keep improving on becoming more of a leader and encouraging my teammates so that everyone had fun playing… It’s an honor, and it’s especially an honor to share the award with three of my teammates.”
Kisner pitched and played third base for the Hubs this season, and he hit .322 with a .402 on-base percentage. The senior recorded 13 runs and seven RBIs. While Kisner didn’t play in 2017, his defense and his presence atop the Rochelle batting order were key contributing factors to the team’s success this year.
“It was a good accomplishment,” Kisner said. “I feel like I was a good all-around player. I wasn’t outstanding at one specific thing, but I did what I had to do for the team, whether it was stealing bases, getting hits or throwing strikes. I enjoyed being able to just play, and we’ve all grown up together.”
Bernardin began his first varsity baseball season batting near the bottom of the Rochelle order before moving his way up with stellar hitting. The junior shortstop hit .344 with a .428 on-base percentage while totaling 16 runs and seven RBIs. Bernardin will be an integral piece of the varsity squad next year.
“It really motivates me to keep pushing toward bigger goals in my career,” Bernardin said. “I felt like I was able to be a good contact hitter this year. I found ways to get on base and help put runs on the board. I would like to keep working on my fielding skills to get a better feel for the shortstop position.”
Perhaps Rochelle’s most valuable player on offense, Johnson crushed opposing pitching this season, batting .484 with a .611 on-base percentage. The junior pitcher and outfielder recorded seven home runs, 25 RBIs and 29 runs. He reached base on 52 of his 85 plate appearances this season.
“I was extremely honored that my hard work paid off and that I was being rewarded for it,” Johnson said. “I think I saw the ball pretty well and swung at good pitches during at-bats. I would like to continue hitting for average while also adding a few more home runs next year.”