RANTOUL — The Rantoul Eagles baseball team did not let an inning go to waste when it came to scoring on Thursday against Decatur Eisenhower Panthers. The Eagles defeated the Panthers in just five innings, 11-1. The game ended early, because of the 10-run rule.

Rantoul was able to score 11 runs despite only having five hits in the game. That statistic is possibly the reason Rantoul head coach Jon Donovan feels his team needs to work on their batting and offensive production.

"One of the things that we talked about as a coaching staff going into the season was that we were going to struggle early possibly offensively," Donovan said. "I’m seeing a little bit of struggle at times. As long as the guys are aware of it and we are focusing on it in practice, we are going to continue to make improvements."

Hayden Cargo leads Rantoul as starting pitcher

Donovan was impressed with his starting pitcher, Hayden Cargo. Cargo pitched four innings, striking out seven, giving up only one run.

"He was consistent in the zone," Donovan said. "His velocity was up. It was a big improvement from last year, and that has to do with coach James Crites working with him this winter and getting him dialed in."

Cargo’s strategy against Decatur Eisenhower was to be in control and switch it up when it came to where he would throw it over the plate.

"I was working the outer half where the batters really couldn’t really reach the outside pitch," Cargo said. "Then right when they think I’m throwing another outside pitch, I’ll throw an inside pitch so that they will miss."

Crites, Rantoul pitching coach, said the biggest concern for high school pitchers is coming into the season in shape by not stressing out their arms early.

"It’s very easy for a high school pitcher to stress their arm early and then they are not effective for the rest of the season," Crites said. "They are looking pretty good right now. They are going to get better as the season goes on just like all pitchers will."

Eagles begin their offensive run in the first

In the bottom of the first inning, Nolan Roseman had a leadoff walk to start things for Rantoul. Hunter Hoffman doubled to score Roseman. Hoffman would steal third and then eventually score on a sacrifice fly ball hit by Nolan Riddle. The score was 2-0 and there were two outs in the first. The Eagles then got back-to-back doubles by Adam Crites and Norlyn Stewart to go-ahead 3-0.

It looked like the team’s offense would stop there, but then Rantoul’s Jaxson Freeman was able to reach on an error committed by Decatur Eisenhower’s Andrew Murphy in left field. The error gave Stewart the opportunity to score and give Rantoul a four-run lead after the first inning. Decatur Eisenhower committed a total of six errors. The Eagles led 6-1 in the bottom of the fourth.

Eagles continue scoring streak in the fourth

Rantoul scored another four runs in the fourth inning, to go up 10-1, despite getting only one hit. The four runs were due to a combination of errors, steals, walks and wild pitches. After the four innings, the Eagles were up, 10-1. The last run in the fifth inning scored by Rantoul came from Hoffman, who was walked with bases loaded.

Rantoul heads to Alabama Gulf Shores to play in High School Tournament

Next up for the Eagles will be the Alabama Gulf Shores High School Tournament. Rantoul started the tournament on Monday and will play four games. Forty high school baseball teams from around the country will be participating.

"It will be the first time ever that the baseball program has taken an extended spring trip," Donovan said. "It’s going to be a great experience for these guys, for the families to bond and play some competitive baseball in warm weather."

Contact Ben Theobald at btheobald@rantoulpress.com