LOVES PARK, Ill. - The Rockford University baseball team (4-8) returned to the field on Tuesday facing off against the University of Dubuque Spartans (6-8). The Regents came into the game riding a three-game win streak with hopes of making it four. Things started out rough for the Regents as they saw themselves down 4-1 in the second inning. A big four-run inning in the bottom of the seventh put the Regents in prime position to come back and win the game 7-6. This is the first four-game win streak for baseball since April of 2014.
The Regents struck first in the bottom of the first inning taking the early 1-0 lead on the Spartans. Kraemer Brandt (Elk Grove, Ill.) got Rockford started as he drew a walk. Next, Brandt advanced on a ground out giving Rockford a runner on second with one out. Bryce Hinkelman (Ottawa, Ill.) had a day at the plate and started it off with a single to right center, good enough to send Brandt home.
Unfortunately, Dubuque found a way to answer as it had a four-run inning to propel the Spartans to a 4-1 lead heading into the bottom of the second. Thomas Bolen (Tucson, Ariz.) stepped to the mound in the top of the fifth and did well to keep the Regents within striking distance. Rockford went into the bottom of the seventh trailing Dubuque 6-1 and needing runs.
Rockford did exactly what it needed, having a four-run inning of its own to make it a 6-5 game heading into the top of the eighth. With one out, it was Corey Saracco (Montgomery, Ill.) who started the Regents rally as he laced a single right back up the middle. Next, Jacob Rillamas (Yuma, Ariz.) drew a walk to give Rockford runners on first and second with one out. Kraemer Brandt did well putting the ball in play as he singled to right field and loaded the bases for Brett Down (Princeville, Ill.). Down reached first thanks to a fielding error on the shortstop, which allowed all runners to advance and Saracco to score. Next to the plate was Hinkelman who did not disappoint for Rockford. Hinkelman crushed a single down the left field line, allowing the Regents to score two runs. Austin Smith (Peru, Ill.) continued the bats for Rockford as he struck a single through the left side, good enough to score Down and make it a 6-5 game.
As Rockford entered the top of the eighth down one, it was Zachary Jones (Rockford, Ill.) who was handed the ball. Jones executed well as he struck the first batter out looking, got the second batter to fly out to right and ended the inning striking out the last batter looking.
The Regents got what they needed at the plate as they scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 7-6 lead, proving to be enough for the win. John Mareks (Tucson, Ariz.) started the inning off as he smacked a double into right field, as he became the tying run. Next up, Corey Saracco singled and became the go-ahead run, as Mareks advanced to third. Jacob Rillamas (Yuma, Ariz.) hit a sacrifice fly that stalled Saracco at first but was good enough to tie the game as Mareks touched home plate. Kraemer Brandt stood in strong as he wore a pitch, giving Rockford runners on first and second with one out. One batter later, with Hinkelman at the plate an errant throw by the catcher allowed the Regents to take the lead. The Dubuque catcher attempted to pickoff Brandt at first but overthrew the first baseman and Saracco used his speed to get from second to home to propel the Regents into the driver's seat giving the Regents a 7-6 lead.
This was it, top of the ninth, the Regents needed three more outs to walk away victorious. With one runner on, Zachary Jones struck out the next batter looking. Rockford eyed the bullpen and pulled the trigger on freshman pitcher Christian Dahlstrom (Clermont, Fla.). Dahlstrom came in clutch for Rockford as the first batter he faced went down looking. With two outs and the tying run on first, Dahlstrom was able to get the next batter to fly out to left field, where Kraemer Brandt made a nice sliding catch to secure the victory.
Rockford got good productivity out of its young pitchers as sophomore Zachary Jones earned the win as he pitched 1.1 innings, striking out three and only allowing one hit. Christian Dahlstrom recorded the save for the Regents as he pitched the final two outs of the game, while striking out a batter.
On the offensive end Rockford had five players record at least two hits in the game. Bryce Hinkelman had a day as he led the Regents, going an impressive 4-for-5 at the plate with 3 RBIs, and a double. Kraemer Brandt and Chris Carlson both went 2-for-3, while Brandt also drew a walk. Austin Smith and Corey Saracco each finished the game going 2-of-4 from the plate.
The Rockford University baseball team looks to continue its winning ways as it hits the road to start conference play this Saturday, March 31 when it faces Dominican. The first pitch is set for noon.