Season Preview: Rochelle baseball team

Senior Brandon Johnson is one of three All-Conference players returning this season. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Three All-Conference players return for 2019 season

ROCHELLE — Poor weather has pushed back the start of the Rochelle varsity baseball season, but head coach Jarrod Reynolds and the Hubs are itching to get back on the diamond.

Rochelle will open the 2019 campaign at Rockford Boylan on Wednesday, March 20. The Hubs are looking to defend their 2018 Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference Championship, and three All-Conference players including seniors Brandon Johnson, Zack Bernardin and Johnny Beck will return to the lineup.

“I’m really excited about the potential for this team,” Reynolds said. “We’re really looking forward to this season, and we think we can have a really good year. We have a lot of guys who can really play.”

Rochelle’s senior-heavy roster will feature Beck as the ace on the pitcher’s mound. The Western Illinois University baseball commit struck out 100 batters in less than 60 innings last season. Brandon Johnson and seniors Cody Johnson and Hayden Jones are also expected to record innings for the Hubs this season.

“Johnny had a great year on the mound last season,” Reynolds said. “Cody and Brandon pitched quite a bit as well. Hayden had some elbow problems last year, but we’re expecting big things from him this year. We have guys who throw hard, which is a big deal for us since we want our pitchers to miss bats.”

Bernardin returns to the shortstop position for the Hubs, while Kishwaukee College baseball commit Cody Johnson will anchor Rochelle behind the plate. Jones, who signed with TCS Academy, will lead Rochelle at first base. Senior Louie Mancinas and juniors Gavin Ansteth, Austin Greifenkamp and Ethan Etes will be contributors on the infield as well.

“We have a lot of flexibility in the field,” Reynolds said. “Cody and Gavin both caught last year, and Ethan can play anywhere in the infield… All of our catchers can play third base and second base.”

Brandon Johnson and his big bat headlines Rochelle’s outfield core this season. Seniors Noah Knight and Eddie Villalobos are also expected to get some reps at the outfield positions. Reynolds said the outfield will offer the most competition for starting spots this year.

“Brandon had a great year last season, especially at the plate,” Reynolds said. “Noah played as a freshman and a sophomore and he was a really good center fielder. I’ll expect him to see a lot of time out there, and Eddie’s competing for a spot as well.”

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