Rams defeat Hudsonville and Forest Hills Central
Rockford’s varsity baseball team did something that is difficult to do against any team, much less one of the best in the state. The Rams beat Hudsonville for a third time this season in the regional semifinal game. Two of the three games between the Rams and the Eagles were decided by one run and this one went extra innings. Rockford came out on top 6-5 in nine innings by out-hitting the Eagles 11-8 and getting solid pitching performances from fellow lefties, Joe Kropiewnicki and Austin Stephens.
Hudsonville drew first blood, offensively, as they scored two runs in the top of the second inning. The Rams answered in the bottom of the second when Christian Leinesch singled, Brent Showers walked, Matt Boonstra singled and Ian Stankus hit a sacrifice fly.
Both teams were scoreless in the third and fourth innings. The Eagles plated two more runs in the top of the fifth. Rockford didn’t score in its half of the fifth and was down 4-2.
Hudsonville didn’t score in the sixth, but Rockford scored three to take the lead when Showers, Boonstra and Andrew Rademacher singled, and Drew Farmer followed with a double. At the end of six, Rockford led 5-4.
The Eagles scored one to tie the game in the top of the seventh. The Rams didn’t score in the bottom of the seventh, and Hudsonville was held scoreless in the eighth and ninth. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Rockford’s Brandon Nostrant singled and reached second on a wild pitch. That was followed by a Shain Showers single and a walk-off double by Tony DiLeo to win the game. DiLeo was injured and couldn’t play in last week’s district competition, but really came through for the Rams upon his return.
Rockford was led by Nostrant (2-4, 2B), Boonstra (2-2), Farmer (2-5, 2B, two RBI), S. Showers (1-4), DiLeo (1-5, 2B, one RBI, Leinesch (1-4), B. Showers (1-2) and Rademacher (1-4, one RBI).
Defensively, Kropiewnicki got the start and battled a potent Eagle offense the whole way. “Krop” didn’t have his best stuff, but he kept the Rams in contention and was lifted from the game in the top of the seventh inning. He went 6-2/3 innings while giving up seven hits, one walk, five runs, five earned runs and struck out four.
Stephens came on in relief of Kropiewnicki in the seventh and worked out of a jam to keep the score knotted at five apiece. He pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth to earn the win. Stephens’ line was 2-1/3 innings pitched, one hit, no runs, no walks and one strikeout.
Stephens was assisted in the ninth by right-fielder Rademacher and was one of the first of his teammates to shake his hand after “A-Rad” made an outstanding play to end the inning. Hudsonville’s Hank VanOyen had doubled off Stephens with one out. Stephens got a ground ball out, gobbled up by Stankus at second base, and then gave up a weakly hit fly ball to Vanoord with two outs. Rademacher, who gets better jumps on the ball than just about anyone in the league, came in to make a diving catch to end the inning. That would have tied the game up again.
In the championship game, the Rams faced a tough Forest Hills Central (FHC) team who had defeated Grand Haven earlier in their semifinal game. The game pitted two of the top pitchers in the area against one another. The Rams’ Bryan Baldwin faced FHC’s Mick VanVossen. VanVossen is headed to pitch at Michigan State University and was drafted earlier in the week by the Texas Rangers in the MLB first-year player draft.
Rockford came out on top by out-hitting the Rangers 7-5. Rockford scored right away in the first when Nostrant reached on an error and S. Showers drove him in with a single. They scored again in the second inning as Rademacher singled and Farmer blasted a two-run homerun to right-center. Farmer’s homerun tied a school record for most homeruns in a season: six.
The Rams were scoreless in the third and fourth, and then scored one more in the fifth when DiLeo singled and was driven in by a B. Showers single.
Offensive leaders for the Rams were DiLeo (2-2, 2B), S. Showers (1-3, one RBI), Farmer (1-4, HR, two RBI), Leinesch (1-2), B. Showers (1-2, one RBI) and Rademacher (1-3).
Baldwin out-dueled VanVossen on the mound. He held the Rangers’ bats in check as only three FHC players had hits. Baldwin earned the win by going all seven innings and gave up five hits, two runs, one earned run, two walks and struck out five.
The regional championship is the first since 1998 for the Rams. They also set a school record for wins as they are now 29-6 on the year. Rockford traveled to play Davidson in the Division I quarterfinals at Central Michigan University on Tuesday. Watch next week’s Squire for results.