by RANDY GREGORY
The Rockford baseball team gathered more steam as they chugged inexorably along toward their third OK Red title in the last four years. It was anything but easy in the two league contests however, as first the Rams topped Jenison 11-10 at home on Tuesday, May 15, and followed that up with a 6-3 triumph over the Wildcats at Jenison on Thursday, May 17.
Things were a touch easier on Saturday, May 19, at the Rockford Varsity Invitational. Rockford opened up play by routing Portland 15-5 to advance to the championship game against Hamilton. It was tight early, but Rockford exploded for seven runs in the fifth and sixth innings combined to crush the Hawkeyes 10-0 for their second consecutive mercy-rule victory, and took home the title.
The Rams now stand at 23-4 overall and 11-1 in OK Red play. Hudsonville is only one game behind at 10-2, and both teams have only two games left in conference play. Any combination of two Rockford wins or Hudsonville losses gives Rockford the crown solely. The Rams will play a home-and-home series with a solid Grandville squad, while Hudsonville has the same agenda against a very good team from West Ottawa.
“It was a struggle against Jenison,” said Rockford Coach Ian Hearn. “They are a very talented and well-coached team. But we won both games and that is the important thing. Grandville is also an excellent team and would love nothing better than to knock us off. It isn’t going to be easy, but we got ourselves into position to win the OK Red and now we have to go out and perform just as we have been all year long.”
Rockford appeared to be on their way to an easy win in Tuesday’s game against Jenison when they jumped out to an early 8-2 lead. But timely Jenison hits and some uncustomary sloppy defense from the Rams let the Wildcats right back into the game. Brent Showers started and was relieved by Kory Young, who got the win. But that wasn’t until Shain Showers (hold) and Ian Stankus (save) had to come on and shut the door for the thrilling 11-10 win. The Rams pounded the ball offensively, led by three hits from Stankus. Tony Dileo (home run and double), B. Showers (home run), Steven Powell and Steve Bilski all chipped in with a pair of hits to augment the key triumph.
Stankus went the distance on the mound in Thursday’s return tilt at Jenison. Stankus allowed five hits while fanning six and gave up two earned runs. The bats were a little quieter on this occasion as Drew Farmer (double), S. Showers (double) and Young all had two hits to lead the offense for Rockford.
In Saturday’s opener, the Rams’ top five hitters reached base in 17 of 19 at bats to help erase all doubt as to the eventual outcome. Reid Kelley started and was relieved by Alex Hertel, who got credit for the win. Brandon Nostrant had a trio of hits to lead the charge offensively for Rockford. S. Showers (2B) and Stankus also added a pair of hits.
It was “the Nick Street show” for Rockford in Saturday’s championship game against Hamilton until the late Ram outburst. Street allowed only three hits while whiffing 11 and walking only one in twirling all six innings. Young had three hits including a double. Farmer had a pair of doubles and Powell had a double amongst his two hits. S. Showers