Kaneland comes back to upend Rochelle
Kaneland started its quest for a fourth straight Northern Illinois Big XII title Tuesday by overcoming what had been its biggest problem in its nonconference games.
Struggling to get their offense on track, the Knights found a way to put three runs on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning without a hit.
Those three runs proved to be the difference in a 6-4 win over Rochelle.
Leadoff hitter Dan Miller, one of 15 seniors on the roster, went 2-for-3 and figured prominently in the comeback by drawing a walk.
"I just try to get on base whatever way you can get on whether it be a single or walk or hit by pitch or whatever," Miller said. "You can never give up, anything can happen in a baseball game. Rochelle is much improved so it was good to get a win."
Kaneland (4-6, 1-0) trailed 4-3 entering the last of the sixth after Rochelle (0-7, 0-1) had taken the lead with a pair of unearned runs against Knights starter Matt Limbrunner in the fourth.
With one out Zack Martinelli reached when the Hubs bobbled his grounder to short. Miller followed with a walk and Joe Pollastrini was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Catcher Josh Cohrs also coaxed a walk to force in the tying run. Miller hustled in with the go-ahead run on a wild pitch, and Limbrunner capped the inning with a sacrifice fly to plate Pollastrini.
"We got a guy (Martinelli) down in the count and roll a ground ball just like we want and we ended up booting it when we just needed to make a play," Rochelle coach Nick Reineck said, adding this was the fifth time in the seven losses the Hubs led or were tied going into the last inning. "That error led to everything else."
Anthony Holubecki, the first freshman Kaneland coach Brian Aversa has brought up in his tenure, set the Hubs down in the seventh with just a walk. Holubecki earned the win by pitching the final two innings without allowing a hit or a run.
The Knights got off to a quick start. Cohrs started a 2-out rally in the first with a double and scored on Limbrunner's double. Joe Komel lined a single to bring in Limbrunner for a 2-0 lead.
The Knights made it 3-0 in the second on singles by Martinelli and Miller and then a Rochelle throwing error on a double steal.
Rochelle touched Limbrunner for 2 runs in both the third and fourth innings to go up 4-3. The first two runs were earned, the second two were not. Limbrunner worked five innings allowing 6 hits while walking two and striking out two.
"That one (fourth-inning) error cost us a little but Matt pitched well and Anthony came in and pitched well too," Aversa said. "Our pitching isn't the problem. Our defense needs to play well behind those guys and same with our bats, we need to get it going and give our pitchers a cushion."
Second baseman John Hopkins joined Miller with 2 hits for the Knights while Limbrunner drove in a pair of runs. Kaneland outhit Rochelle 9-6.
"We've been trying to get the bats going," Miller said. "We hit the ball pretty decent today so hopefully we carry that into the next game."
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