RANTOUL — The early part of the season had been an up-and-down one for the Rantoul baseball team.
Following a 14-8 loss to Charleston on April 11, the Eagles stood at 4-4 on the year and had struggled with their approaches at the plate. But after suffering a 3-2 heartbreaking defeat to Olympia on April 12 in a game dominated by pitching (Rantoul’s Nolan Roseman and Olympia’s Mason Marquis were phenomenal on the mound), the Eagles have established some momentum.
An upset win over one of the area’s top teams, Monticello, was followed by losses in two of their next three games, but the Eagles have now won four of their last five in the last week to push their record to 10-8 — the first time they have been two games above .500 since starting the season 3-1.
Three of those wins have been Illini Prairie Conference victories — 4-1 over Illinois Valley Central; 9-5 over Unity; 2-1 over Pontiac, and an 11-2 loss to Mattoon and a 4-3 win over Herscher have been mixed in as well.
Last Monday, an RBI double by John Frerichs and two-run home run by Luke Jones gave the Eagles a 3-0 lead in the first inning over Unity. After the Rockets tied it up, Garet Kinnett’s RBI triple, Frerichs’ RBI groundout and Adam Crites solo shot gave Rantoul a 6-3 advantage it would not relinquish.
Nolan Riddle (3-for-4) added a two-RBI double, and Hayden Cargo gave the Eagles some insurance with an RBI double in the seventh.
Last Wednesday, the Green Wave broke open a tight game in the final two frames. Tied at 2 heading into the sixth, Mattoon pushed three runs across in the sixth and added six more in the seventh inning for the nine-run win.
Chad Vermillion’s RBI double scored Cargo in the second inning after the latter’s hard-hit triple put him in scoring position. A sacrifice bunt by Jones plated Roseman in the third for a 2-1 lead.
Against Pontiac, Roseman was dominant on the mound, as the southpaw worked a complete game two-hitter with nine strikeouts to three walks.
Jones’ RBI double in the first plated Riddle for a quick 1-0 lead, and Riddle’s sacrifice fly gave Roseman all the offense he would need to pick up the win.
On Saturday, Rantoul’s bats came alive to explode for 12 hits in a win over Herscher. The Eagles scored three runs in the third, as Frerichs notched an RBI single, and Jones and Cargo each tallied RBI doubles.
The Tigers, however, rallied to knot the score at 3 in the fourth frame, but Cargo came through in the clutch with another RBI double in the fifth.
Roseman finished 3-for-4 on the day, while Frerichs, Cargo, Jones and Riddle each recorded two hits.
Crites earned the win, tossing five innings and allowing two earned runs on four hits with six strikeouts and no walks. Riddle finished things off, throwing two innings and allowing one earned run, one hit and four walks.
Contact Zack Carpenter at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ZackCarpenter11.