In a match-up between the number two team in the state (Hudsonville) and the number nine team in the state (Rockford), the Rams came out on top. Game one was played in Rockford this past Tuesday, May10, and game two was played at Hudsonville on Thursday, May 12. Rockford then traveled to Okemos for a double header, but only got one game in due to the inclement weather on Friday, May 13.
In the first game against Hudsonville, the Rams’ starting pitcher Bryan Baldwin took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. The first two innings, he retired the Eagles in order, faced only four batters in the third and fourth, and then faced five batters in the fifth—all without giving up a hit. Baldwin gave up his first hit in the sixth with two outs, a single to Hudsonville’s Tyler Baar.
It was a shutout going into the seventh inning with the Rams up 3-0. Baldwin gave up a leadoff hit and then got two quick ground ball outs. After a second hit and a walk, Coach Ian Hearn made a pitching change, bringing in Shain Showers from shortstop. Showers has done an outstanding job all year, but struggled a bit with the zone, as he walked two batters. Several of the pitches could have gone either way and it would have been a dramatically different outcome.
With left-handed hitting Baar coming up again, Hearn made another pitching change, bringing in senior lefty Austin Stephens. As Stephens entered the game, it was Rockford 3 and Hudsonville 2 with the bases loaded. Stephens struck out Baar on three straight pitches to get the save and notch the win for the Rams. Baldwin picked up the win going 6-2/3 innings, while giving up just three hits, two runs, five walks and struck out four.
Offensively, the Rams outhit the Eagles by a slim margin (4-3). All three runs came in the third inning when Drew Farmer and Brandon Nostrant were both hit by pitches from Hudsonville’s Baar. Showers then moved them over with a sacrifice bunt and Tony DiLeo followed with a two RBI double. Senior Christian Leinesch then singled and Ian Stankus hit a ground ball to score the third run. Leading the way offensively were DiLeo (1-3, two RBI), Farmer (2-3) and Leinesch (1-3).
In the second game, the story was pitching and defense again as senior Joe Kropiewnicki threw a complete game and only gave up four hits. Kropiewnicki retired the side in order in the first, third and fourth innings. He gave up the only Eagles run in the second inning on two doubles. He was masterful the rest of the way, hitting spots and changing speeds to hold a very potent Hudsonville offense in check Kropiewnicki’s line for the day was seven innings pitched, four hits, one run, one walk and four strikeouts in garnering his team-leading, sixth win for the Rams.
Leinesch made several running catches in center field to track down a few hard hit balls by the Eagles. His instincts and speed really paid off to assist Kropiewnicki in nailing down the victory. Showers turned in a gem of a defensive performance as well, making a diving play at short as well as going deep into the hole to make a play and throw out an Eagle base runner. What might be more impressive is the way that Showers put Tuesday’s pitching results behind him. He came in behind Baldwin as a relief pitcher and walked a couple of batters to give up a couple of Eagle runs in a tight game. But in Thursday’s game, he didn’t let that affect him from a mental standpoint. He was one of the heroes for Rockford when he broke the game open with a three-run homerun in the sixth—pretty impressive.
Offensively, Rockford put more runs on the board than they had on Tuesday. The offense was highlighted by back-to-back homeruns in the sixth inning by fellow juniors Showers and DiLeo. Another junior, Farmer, made a statement early as he led off with a homerun in the first at-bat of the first inning. In the fourth, the Rams scored again when senior Mike Bilski doubled, which was followed by senior Andrew Rademacher’s run-scoring single. The Rams picked up four more runs in the aforementioned sixth when, with two outs, Farmer doubled, Nostrant walked and Showers drove them all in with a homerun to left. DiLeo then followed up with a homerun to left center. Offensive leaders for the game were Farmer (2-3, one RBI, HR), Leinesch (2-4), Showers (1-2, three RBI, HR), DiLeo (1-3, one RBI, HR), Bilski (1-4) and Rademacher (1-3, one RBI).
Hudsonville came into the week averaging 10 runs per game, and the stingy Ram pitching staff did an outstanding job of holding one of the top offenses in the state to just seven hits and three runs in the two games. The Rams are now atop the OK Red conference at 9-1. Hudsonville is in second at 8-2. Rockford has yet to play Jenison and fourth-place West Ottawa. Hudsonville still has to face East Kentwood and third-place Grand Haven.
Rockford traveled to Okemos for a double header on Friday, but only got one game in due to thunderstorms making their way through the area. Overall, the Rams were a bit flat after the emotion-filled victories over Hudsonville, but came away with an 8-5 win nonetheless.
Stephens got the win, as he started for the Rams on the mound, and Showers followed him, getting the save. The defense wasn’t as sharp as Rockford committed two errors, but the offense helped to make up for it. Offensive leaders were Rademacher (2-2), Leinesch (2-3, one RBI), Kory Young (2-3, one RBI), Baldwin (1-3, three RBI), Showers (1-3), DiLeo (1-4, one RBI) and Farmer (1-4, one RBI). Leinesch, Showers, Farmer and DiLeo are the usual offensive leaders, but Rademacher has been “Mr. Consistency” all year with the bat, and freshman Young has really brought his batting average up and has filled in very well defensively.
After the Okemos game, the Rams’ overall record stands at 16-5. Rockford takes on West Ottawa this week at West Ottawa on Tuesday, May 17 and back at home on Thursday, May 19. This weekend, the Rams will play at home in their varsity sports booster tournament.