LOVES PARK, Ill. - It was another exciting day of baseball on Sunday as the Rockford University baseball team (12-12, 6-3 NACC) split its two games with the red-hot Marian University Sabres (12-14, 8-4 NACC). After dropping a pitchers' duel 2-1 in the opener, Rockford rebounded nicely to win the nightcap 7-2. The Regents offense exploded for 13 hits including four extra-base hits to help compliment yet another outstanding effort from the pitching staff. Over the last six games, the Regents have allowed just five earned runs and have a team earned run average of 0.92.
Pitching was the story in the opener as neither the Regents nor the Sabres were able to get much of anything going offensively. Senior right-hander Thomas Bolen (Tucson, Ariz.) was simply outstanding on the mound for the Regents. Bolen went all eight innings to toss his first complete game of the season. The senior scattered five hits and allowed just two runs, while striking out seven. Bolen was especially effective in the middle of the game when he retired 12 straight Sabre hitters between the second and sixth innings.
Each team was able to scratch across a run in the second inning. Rockford struck first with an unearned run in the top half of the frame on one hit. The Regents loaded the bases with one out after a pair of Marian errors and a Kyle Waugh (Waseca, Minn.) infield single. Sophomore Jacob Rillamas (Yuma, Ariz.) then drove in Rockford's only run of the game on a sacrifice fly to put his team in front 1-0. The lead did not last long though as the Sabres answered back with a single run of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Marian used a pair of hits and an RBI groundout to tie the game at 1-1.
The Sabres would eventually take their first lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth. Marian strung together a pair of hits and a walk to score the run and jump in front 2-1.
Rockford really only had two other scoring opportunities in the game. In the third, the Regents had runners on first and second with no one out following a walk and hit batsman to begin the inning. However, Marian's starting pitcher Zachariah Sandoval was able to wiggle out of the jam by inducing a double play and then striking out the final hitter of the inning. The Regents' other scoring opportunity came in the eighth when pinch hitter Chris Carlson (Schaumburg, Ill.) drew a walk and then stole second base to put himself in scoring position with two outs. Unfortunately once again, Sandoval was able to retire the final batter of the inning and three of the four batters in the ninth to take game one by a final score of 2-1.
Game two had a much different feel to it as the Regents' offense came to life and scored a total of six runs in the fourth and fifth innings. The fourth inning got off to a great start with Rockford stringing together back-to-back-to-back singles. Austin Smith (Peru, Ill.), Chris Carlson (Schaumburg, Ill.) and Michael Tosado (Chicago, Ill.) all singled to begin the inning. Smith then made a heads up play on the bases, as he scored after the Marian third baseman muffed a throw coming in from left field to tie the game at 1-1. Two batters later, sophomore Corey Saracco (Montgomery, Ill.) ripped an RBI double into right center scoring Carlson and giving Rockford a 2-1 lead, its first of the game. The Regents would then take advantage of a wild pitch on a strikeout to score their third run of the inning, followed by a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Kraemer Brandt (Elk Grove, Ill.) to extend their lead to 4-1, heading into the bottom of the fourth.
Rockford then extend its lead to 6-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth off three hits. Bryce Hinkelman (Ottawa, Ill.) got things started with a leadoff double into the left field corner. Two batters later, Chris Carlson roped a double of his own down the right field line to score Hinkelman and make it a 5-1 game. Michael Tosado followed with a single to center to put runners on the corners with one out. Up stepped John Mareks (Tucson, Ariz.), who drove in the final run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to center. The Sabres would get one of the runs back in the bottom of the fifth off a walk and a pair of hits to cut Rockford's lead down to 6-2.
Six runs was more than enough run support for the Rockford pitching staff. Senior Dalton Morris (Somonauk, Ill.) was excellent on the mound and earned his first win of the season with 5.2 solid innings of work. The senior scattered 6 hits and allowed just one earned run during his start, while striking out six. Morris then turned the game over to the bullpen with two outs in the sixth and the bases loaded. In stepped freshman Christian Dahlstrom (Clermont, Fla.) who promptly retired the first batter he faced and crushed any hopes of a Marian comeback. Dahlstrom went the final 3.1 innings allowing no runs and no hits, while striking out five to earn his fifth save in as many chances this season. Dahlstrom's five saves has already tied the RU single season saves record, and he is just three saves away from tying the RU career saves record.
Rockford would put the icing on the cake in the top of the ninth when senior catcher Bryce Hinkelman crushed his fourth home run of the season. Hinkelman is now just one home run off the NACC leader, despite playing two less games and in a much bigger ballpark.
Offensively, Rockford had four players record multiple hits in game two. Kraemer Brandt finished 3-for-4 with an RBI. Bryce Hinkelman went 2-for-5 with a double, a home run, 2 runs scored and an RBI. Chris Carlson went 2-for-4 with a double, 2 runs scored and an RBI. Michael Tosado was 2-for-4 with a run scored.
The RU baseball team returns to the diamond on Tuesday, April 24 against Benedictine University. First pitch is set for 2 PM at Rivets Stadium.