by RANDY GREGORY
Coupled with a Hudsonville loss to Grand Haven on Thursday, May 10, the Rockford baseball team took sole possession of first place in the OK Red by sweeping a pair of games from the West Ottawa Panthers last week. Rockford topped the Panthers 9-2 on Tuesday, May 8 at home before rallying late to take a 4-2 decision in Holland on Thursday. With four games left in conference play the Rams now stand at 9-1 (19-4 overall) while Hudsonville follows closely behind at 8-2.
“There is still a lot of baseball to be played,” said Rockford Coach Ian Hearn. “We have four very tough games left with Jenison and Grandville, and Hudsonville still has to play West Ottawa and East Kentwood. West Ottawa was a pretty solid team and we missed some opportunities to get out to a lead on Thursday. But we managed to win both games and that is what good teams do.”
In Tuesday’s tilt, Brent Showers went the distance on the mound for Rockford to garner the win. Showers allowed eight hits and only one earned run while whiffing eight and issuing a pair of bases on balls. Showers also helped himself at the plate with a pair of hits. Kory Young added a pair of doubles and Drew Farmer chipped in with a pair of hits including a double.
Not to be outdone, Ian Stankus twirled a gem in Thursday’s contest. Stankus allowed four hits while fanning seven and walking a trio of Panthers. Rockford amassed 12 hits as a team but it took some late heroics from Young and Steven Powell to claim the vastly important conference win. With the score tied at 2-2 in the seventh inning, Young blasted a home run and Powell later added an equally important run-scoring single. Just like Showers, Stankus also helped himself with the stick by getting a pair of hits. Tony Dileo led the way for Rockford with three hits and Young also added another base knock.
The Rams concluded the week by sweeping a pair of games from Caledonia at Rockford on Friday, May 11. The Rams blasted the Fighting Scots in the opener 13-1 before taking the nightcap by a margin of 6-3. Reid Kelley tossed the first four innings of the opener to get the win with relief help from Max Crimp in the mercy-rule shortened contest. Brandon Nostrant, Powell and Dileo all had a pair of hits to pace the Ram offense. One of Dileo’s hits was his third homer of the year and Stankus added a double.
Nick Street tossed the first five innings of the second contest and allowed three unearned runs while striking out six and issuing only one walk. Young got the save and struck out four over the final two innings. Farmer was the only Ram with multiple hits (two) including a double.
Rockford hosts Jenison on Tuesday, May 15 (too late for press) before returning the favor with a trip to Wildcat country on Thursday, May 17. The Rams will close out the week by hosting the Rockford Baseball Tournament on Saturday, May 19. The other teams participating include Troy, Portland and Hamilton.
“The regular season is starting to wind down,” said Hearn. “We have only eight games left and we host six of them. We need to continue to work and improve as a team both for our conference and to try and achieve the goals we set for ourselves earlier this year.”