TUCSON, Ariz. - The Rockford University baseball team (0-7) nearly completed an incredible 11-run comeback on Friday afternoon against the Salem State University Vikings (3-0). After allowing 10 runs in the bottom of the first inning, the Regents would score single runs in both the second and third innings but still trailed 13-2 heading into the fifth. Rockford then added two more runs in the fifth to make it a 14-4 game after six innings of play. At that point, the momentum swung heavily in Rockford's favor as the Regents scored 11 runs in the top of the seventh to take their first lead of the game at 15-14. The lead was short lived though as Salem State responded with 3 runs in the bottom half of the frame to jump back in front 17-15. However the Regents answered right back with a pair of runs in the eighth to knot the game at 17-17. The game would remained tied until the bottom of the ninth, when Salem State's Brendan Greene delivered a walk-off single into right center field to give the Vikings a 18-17 win.
The Regents slowly worked their way back into the game with runs in the second, third and fifth innings. Senior Chris Carlson (Schaumburg, Ill.) led off the second with a single into right field and then advanced to third after a Michael Tosado (Chicago, Ill.) walk and a throwing error by the Viking catcher. One batter later, John Mareks (Tucson, Ariz.) drove in Carlson with an infield single to give the Regents their first run of the day. Rockford would add another solo run off two hits in the third. Senior catcher Bryce Hinkelman (Ottawa, Ill.) began the inning with an infield single and then advanced to second on throwing error by the third baseman to put himself in scoring position with no one out. Two batters later, Chris Carlson drove in Hinkelman with single into right field as Rockford closed to within eight at 10-2. Rockford then added two more runs in the fifth to keep pace with Salem State. Bryce Hinkelman again led off the inning with a single, followed by a double off the bat of Austin Smith (Peru, Ill.) to put runners on second and third with no one out. Chris Carlson and Michael Tosado each drove in a run with an RBI groundout as Rockford still trailed by ten, 14-4, after six innings of play.
Rockford's half of the seventh was by far the best half inning of the year for the Regents as they scored 11 runs off 8 hits and stormed back from down 10 to grab the lead for the first time in the game. Cristian Bermeo (Chicago, Ill.) and Christian Garcia (Maricopa, Ariz.) strung together back-to-back singles to begin the inning. After a Viking error loaded the bases, Michael Gunter (Maricopa, Ariz.) drew a walk to drive in the Regents' first run of the frame. Up stepped Michael Tosado, who crushed a 2-run double down the right field line to score Garcia and Smith. One batter later, pinch hitter Kyle Waugh (Waseca, Minn.) singled into right as Rockford pulled back to within six at 14-8. Corey Saracco (Montgomery, Ill.) and Jacob Rillamas (Yuma, Ariz.) joined the hit parade with RBI singles of their own as Rockford made it a four-run game with still no one out in the inning. One batter later, Kraemer Brandt (Elk Grove, Ill.) got hit by a pitch to again load the bases. After a strikeout, Garcia tallied his second hit of the inning, this one an RBI single through the right side of the infield. Austin Smith would then draw a walk to score Rillamas and make it a 14-12 game. Rockford's next run came courtesy of a throwing error by the Vikings as it was now just a one-run game with still only one out in the inning. One batter later, Michael Tosado drove in his third run of the inning with an RBI single to center to tie the game. However, the center fielder threw the ball away at the plate, which allowed another run to score on the play and gave Rockford a 15-14 lead. Unfortunately Rockford was unable to come away with any more runs as the Vikings got two outs on the next play to end the marathon half inning.
Rockford's lead did not last long as Salem State scored three runs in the bottom half of the seventh. The Vikings used three hits, a walk and took advantage of a passed ball to jump back in front 17-15.
Fortunately Rockford responded right back with two runs of its own in the top half of the eighth to tie the game. Corey Saracco began the inning with a leadoff single through the left side of the infield to put the leadoff hitter aboard for the sixth time in the last seven innings. After a passed ball moved Saracco to second, Jacob Rillamas singled into right to move Saracco to third who then scored on a fielding error by the right fielder to make it a one-run game again. The Regents then loaded the bases with two outs after Bermeo walked and Smith was hit by a pitch. One batter later, Michael Gunter was also hit by a pitch to force in Rillamas and tie the game. Unfortunately Rockford would again leave the bases loaded as the game headed to the ninth tied at 17-17.
The ninth got off to a great start as Kyle Waugh was hit by a pitch and Jacob Rillamas doubled to right center to put runners on second and third with one out. Rockford would then load the bases after Kraemer Brandt was intentionally walked. However, the Vikings were again able to wiggle out of the jam without allowing a run and keep the game tied heading into the bottom of the ninth. Unfortunately it was not meant to be as the Vikings were able to take advantage of a leadoff walk, a stolen base and then score on a walk-off single into right center field.
The Regents had seven players record a multi-hit game on Friday. Bryce Hinkelman continued his hot hitting going a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate with a pair of runs scored. Jacob Rillamas also had a trio of hits, going 3-for-4 with a double, 2 runs scored and an RBI. Michael Tosado went 2-for-5 with a double, 4 RBIs and a run scored. Chris Carlson finished with a pair of hits, a run scored and 2 RBIs. Christian Garcia was 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored and an RBI. John Mareks went 2-for-3 with a triple and a run scored. Corey Saracco was also 2-for-4 with an RBI and two run scored.
The RU baseball team concludes its trip to Tucson, Ariz. on Saturday, March 10 against Carthage College. First pitch is set for 10 AM.