Eagles split four games in 29th Annual Wood Bat Invitational

Normal U-High’s Nate Hardman jumps out of the reach of Drew Duden’s glove to score in the fifth inning to give the Pioneers a 4-3 lead. The Pioneers beat the Eagles 11-3 on Saturday during the second day of the Annual Wood Bat Invitational. 


CHAMPAIGN — There were two outs in the fifth inning, and the Rantoul Eagles were tied 3-3 with Normal U-High.

Normal U-High’s Nate Hardman was on first when teammate Paul Africano hit a fly ball into left field that Rantoul’s Emmanuel Lutes was unable to catch. The third base coach gave Hardman the go-ahead to head to the plate, where catcher Drew Duden narrowly missed tagging Hardman. 

The run gave the Pioneers a 4-3 lead and shifted the momentum of the game.

The Pioneers won 11-3 and took third place of the Annual Wood Bat Invitational Tournament at Spalding Field. The Eagles took fourth. There were a total of six teams in the tournament.

The Eagles played two games both Friday and Saturday in the tournament. The Eagles won 3-2 against Mahomet-Seymour in their first game on Friday and lost the second 11-1 to Champaign Central. 

The Eagles knocked off Pontiac 8-2 in their first game Saturday. 

Rantoul head coach Jon Donovan said that if the Eagles had gotten the out at home the outcome against U-High might have been different.

“If we make that play at the plate, we are out of the inning and the score is still tied,” Donovan said. “That kind of opened things up for them and gave them some momentum. I was proud of the guys for executing that play. It was just unfortunate we couldn’t get the guy out at home.”

The Eagles trailed 3-0 until the fifth inning. 

Two walks and a single loaded the bases for Hayden Cargo. Cargo walked, scoring a run. Adam Crites’ two-run single tied it up at 3-3.  

U-High’s Parker Matheson was 2-3 with a triple and a single. Hardman was 1-2 with a two RBI double in the second.

Hunter Hoffman started for the Eagles on the mound. Hoffman pitched three innings, allowing five hits, three runs (three earned), struck out one and walked one. 

Jaxson Freeman relieved Hoffman and pitched for two innings. Freeman allowed six hits, seven runs (all earned) and one walk.

Despite the loss, Donovan was optimistic after watching Freeman pitch against the Pioneers.

“Once he develops his changeup over the summer and he continually gets stronger for the next two years, then he will be a very good player on this program,” Donovan said.

 Eagles defeat Pontiac 8-2

The Eagles faced off against the Pontiac Indians in their first Saturday game of the tournament.

The Eagles took an early 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI single by Cargo.

The Indians tied the game in the second when Payton Amm hit a line drive over the left field wall for a home run.  

In the top of the third, the Eagles hit three straight singles to load the bases for Casey Dillman. Dillman drove in a run with another single to put the Eagles in the lead 2-1.

In the same inning, Eli Remington was hit by a pitch with the bases still loaded to score a run. The next batter, Will Wake, hit a sacrifice fly into left that scored a run. The Eagles were ahead 4-1.

The Eagles defeated the Indians 8-2.

Dillman led the Eagles on the mound, pitching all seven innings, giving up four hits, two earned runs and striking out one

Dillman said he didn’t let the home run distract him and instead kept focused on getting outs.

“I just kept throwing, and the defense made plays behind me,” Dillman said. “Coach just said, ‘We need you to throw as much as you can.’ I just told my coach that I wanted to keep going.”

Nolan Roseman went 2 for 3 with two singles. Hoffman went 2 for 2 with a double and single. Hoffman also scored twice.

No pitching duty for Crites or Roseman

Both Crites and Roseman did not pitch for the Eagles in the tournament because Donovan wants them healthy for the regional game against Mt. Zion on Monday.

“We came in knowing that we would not be throwing our one and two so we can save them for the regional,” Donovan said.  I was happy with our pitching staff this weekend. They filled up the zone and made some off speed pitches across the plate. They gave us a chance to win a couple of games.”

 Contact Ben Theobald at btheobald@rantoulpress.com