Rockford beats Kenowa Hills in district baseball opener

Rams defeat Northview to win district title

The Rams celebrate a district championship win.

On Saturday, June 4, at Northview High School, Rockford won their first district game 11-2 behind another great pitching performance by senior left-hander, Joe Kropiewnicki. Kropiewnicki did what he has done all year, utilizing pinpoint accuracy and keeping the hitters off balance.

Kropiewnicki cruised through the first and second innings facing only seven batters. He struck out the last two batters in the second and the first two batters of the third for four consecutive strikeouts.

Then, with two out in the third, Kenowa Hills’ Chad Makarewicz reached on an error. That was followed by doubles by Matt Neal and Greg Chulski to score Kenowa Hills’ only two unearned runs.

Kropiewnicki breezed through the fourth and fifth innings as well. In the sixth, he got into a bit of a jam by allowing two consecutive singles and his only walk to load the bases with no outs. He then proceeded to strikeout the next batter, induce a shallow pop fly to right field, and strike out the final batter of the inning to strand all three runners. He worked a 1-2-3 seventh to seal the win.

Kropiewnicki’s line was 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K. He moved his record to 9-0 on the season and has an ERA just above one.

The Rams’ offense was explosive and they also benefited from nine walks doled out by Kenowa Hills pitchers. Rockford scored two runs in the first when Drew Farmer and Brandon Nostrant walked, Shain Showers singled, and brother, Brent Showers (who is freshman brought up for the tournament), hit a sacrifice fly.

Brent Showers, Austin Stephens, Shain Showers and Kory Young celebrate the win.

In the second inning, Bryan Baldwin walked, as did Andrew Rademacher. Farmer singled and Christian Leinesch singled to score two more. The Rams garnered four more runs in the third when Ian Stankus walked and Rademacher, Farmer and Nostrant all singled. Rockford was scoreless in the fourth and fifth.

In the sixth the Rams scored one more when B. Showers doubled, Stankus walked for a third time, and Baldwin hit a sacrifice fly. Rockford’s final two runs came in the seventh when Farmer walked, Nostrant and Leinesch singled and B. Showers doubled.

Offensive leaders were Farmer (2-3), Nostrant (3-4, 2b), S. Showers (2-4, three RBI), Leinesch (2-5, one RBI), B. Showers (2-4, 2-2b, two RBI), Baldwin 1-3, one RBI) and Rademacher (1-3, one RBI).

One major bright spot was the play of freshman Brent Showers. He was brought up to fill the catcher’s role, as junior, pre-season All American Tony DiLeo was injured and couldn’t play in districts. The younger Showers had some pretty big shoes to fill, and he certainly came through for the Rams. Between him and his brother Shain, the two were responsible for five of the eight runs batted in. He also did a fantastic job defensively behind the plate.

With the win, the Rams qualified to play in the district championship against Northview.

Rockford was a bit lethargic to begin the championship game against Northview, as their offense was held in check for much of the game. After beating Kenowa Hills, it seemed there was a big letdown in energy.

Offensively, the Rams were held scoreless in the first, second, third and fourth innings. They had runners on second and third, with one out, in the first inning but couldn’t score them. Again, in the fourth, they had a runner on second with one out, but didn’t capitalize. In the fifth, Stankus led off with a single, Farmer followed with a single, and Nostrant hit a sacrifice fly to plate their first run.

Drew Farmer hits against Kenowa Hills.

The Rams were scoreless in the sixth and down 3-1. It didn’t look too promising as their offense was a bit down. The real game began in the seventh inning.

In the seventh, Farmer hit a rocket right to Makarewicz at short stop. There seemed to be a brief ray of hope as the ball whistled through the air but was quickly caught for the first out of the seventh. Then Nostrant was at the plate. He had complained of some leg issues earlier and on a foul ball, he went down with a hamstring cramp and couldn’t finish the at bat. Senior Mike Bilski was charged with finishing the at bat. Bilski came in to a tough situation, being cold and having a 2-2 count. He worked a walk. That seemed to give the Rams some life, as S. Showers then doubled, Leinesch hit a sacrifice fly that was dropped, and B. Showers doubled to tie the game. Max Crimp then walked to load the bases for the Rams. Freshman Kory Young then worked a walk to score the Rams’ fourth run and take the lead 4-3.

In the bottom half of the seventh, Northview put one more run on the board to tie it again. Baldwin was on the mound for the Rams. He got the start and really didn’t have his best stuff all day. But he battled and kept Rockford in the game. He hadn’t given up a hit until the fourth inning, but seemed to fatigue a bit in the sixth.

In the seventh, Baldwin gave up a leadoff double and then threw a wild pitch to move the runner to third. He followed with a strikeout and then gave up a single to plate Northview’s fourth run to tie it up. Baldwin was lifted from the game at that point, having battled without great stuff to keep the Rams in contention. Senior left-hander Austin Stephens relieved Baldwin. Stephens came in and got a strikeout and infield fly out to end the inning.

Rockford went into the top of the eighth all tied up at 4-4 with the top of their order coming up. Farmer hit a line drive over the left fielder’s head for a triple. There was an error on the throw in, and he scored to put the Rams up 5-4. S. Showers then singled with Leinesch coming up. Leinesch hit a line drive right at the second baseman, and they doubled up Showers who was at second to end the inning.

In the bottom of the eighth, Stephens took the mound again. He struck out the first two batters and got a come-backer to end the game in convincing fashion. Baldwin’s line was 6-1/3 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K. Stephens got the win, but Baldwin was just as deserving, as he really battled. Stephens’ line was 1-2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K.

The win puts the Rams at 27-6 on the year and sets them up for a regional showdown with Hudsonville on Saturday, June 11 at Jenison. The Rams beat Hudsonville twice in conference play, but surely the Eagles will have something to prove. It should be a great game.


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