Eagles start 2-1; fall to Gaddis, Hoopeston

RANTOUL — It'd be hard to guess Brady Gaddis was struggling at the plate entering Thursday's baseball game against Rantoul.

It'd also be surprising to learn the Hoopeston Area senior hadn't suited up as a high school catcher until this season.

Gaddis was in fine form in both regards against the Eagles, and the Cornjerkers were better for it.

Gaddis went 3 for 4 with two RBI and steered his pitchers through a tight strike zone, lifting visiting Hoopeston Area to an 8-3 nonconference victory.

"I'm very happy with that," Gaddis said of his hitting results, which Cornjerkers coach Carl Heuer said came after Gaddis struggled through the squad's first two games. "I put in the extra work in the mornings, before games and after practices, and it paid off."

Gaddis delivered the first of a few big blows for the Cornjerkers (2-1) in a seven-run second inning against Rantoul junior Adam Crites. Gaddis knocked Hoopeston Area's first hit with runners on second and third, pushing the Cornjerkers ahead 2-1 and setting in motion an offensive onslaught.

Junior Graham Eighner and senior Logan Walder each added a two-run double while junior Ethan Smith smacked an RBI single, following Gaddis' example and putting the Eagles (1-1) behind the 8-ball early.

"The guys came back to the dugout (after a 1-2-3 first inning) and talked about where the umpire's zone was," Heuer said. "They made an adjustment, and we'd been talking about those guys doing that minus the coaching staff. That's what led to the big inning."

Thanks to that second frame, Hoopeston Area finished 4 of 9 with runners in scoring position. The Cornjerkers mustered just a 1-of-11 output in such situations against Paxton-Buckley-Loda and concluded 1 of 9 versus Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley to begin the campaign, so Thursday's outcome left Heuer pleased.

On the flip side, Rantoul struggled to find holes on the ground or in the air. Though four innings, the Eagles struck out just four times while leaving five runners on base, but they couldn't come up with that big knock.

"We have to eliminate the big inning, and we have to have the ability to respond," Rantoul coach Jon Donovan said. "Offensively, credit to (the Cornjerkers') pitchers, three really good guys."

Senior Luke Jones drove in all three Eagles runs, the first with an opening-inning single and the other two with a fifth-frame double. Rantoul also drew five walks and a pair of hit batsmen, but Gaddis and his trio of hurlers minimized the damage.

So the Eagles will head back to the drawing board, with this being their first game since March 15 thanks to a pair of rainouts in between.

"We just need repetition, live-game repetition," Donovan said. "We're going to get better offensively as the season goes on."

Gaddis, meanwhile, was plenty busy in this affair. He spent his afternoon trying to frame pitches in a stifling zone while sprawling all over the dirt to block short tosses.

Gaddis' approach to these tasks? "Just try."

Heuer no doubt would be happy if such straightforward takes lead to more wins as the Cornjerkers attempt to improve on a Class 2A regional final appearance last season.

"I told them I was proud of this performance," Heuer said. "It's a little bit of a notch in the belt, but we're not complacent with it."

Eagles one-hit Eisenhower

It was an offensive explosion for the Eagles in a 13-1 win over Decatur Eisenhower on Friday. They received two RBI apiece from Nolan Riddle and John Frerichs, with Frerichs finishing 3-for-5.

Rantoul’s pitching staff was just as superb, allowing just one hit over six innings. Hunter Hoffman started, pitching 2 1/3 shutout innings, and Cargo took the win with three innings pitched. Dawson Sanchez cleaned up by recording the final two outs.

Rantoul got the season started with a bang, defeating Bloomington 4-1 in the season opener March 15.

The Eagles got a team-leading three RBI from Hayden Cargo, and Adam Crites powered through five innings, allowing one earned run on six with five strikeouts and no walks. Nolan Roseman finished off the Purple Raiders with two innings of two-hit ball.

Luke Jones’ RBI single in the third and Cargo’s two-run single in the frame were enough for the Eagles (2-1).

clikas@news-gazette.com

Zack Carpenter contributed to this report

Categories (3):Prep Sports, Baseball, Sports

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