The Rantoul Eagles softball team did not need seven innings to deal with the Hoopeston Cornjerkers on Thursday, due to its lineup running up the scoreboard.

In the first inning, the Eagles loaded the bases and did not let the opportunity go to waste. Jada Mosley walked in a run when she was at bat, giving the team its first run for the game. Bella Shields and Kristen Fauser, who both were on base, scored from wild pitches getting away from Hoopeston’s catcher. Madisyn Walton got an RBI single to give her team a 4-0 lead after the first inning. Rantoul scored three runs in the second inning thanks to a three-run double by Jerzie Grob. Grob finished the day 3-for-4, with a double, two singles and batted in four runs.

In the fifth inning the Eagles were up 12-3, the team had again loaded the bases and there was only one out. While Rantoul’s Madison McGinn was at bat, Mosley, who was on third base, caught the Hoopeston defense asleep and was able to steal home, making it 13-3. The defensive woes did not stop for Hoopeston in that inning. With runners on second and third, Rantoul’s McGinn hit a ground ball to the Hoopeston shortstop, who then missed the throw to first, which allowed two more runs. The last two runs scored by Rantoul came from a missed throw from the catcher trying to tag McGinn at third, but the throw missed, allowing McGinn to easily score. Rantoul’s final run came from an RBI single to right by Lexi Sherrick, making the final score 17-3 after just five innings. The game ended early because of the 10-run rule.

Sherrick pitched all five innings and had nine strikeouts.

"Lexi is pitching very well," Rantoul head coach Travis Flesner said. "She is racking up tons of strikeouts. She put tons of work in the offseason to improve her velocity and the movement of her pitches." Sherrick didn’t just have to battle against the Cornjerker offense while she was on the mound. She also had to deal with the 40 mile-per-hour cold winds making each pitch a bit harder. "It made it harder to stay on the mound," Sherrick said. "When it’s cold, it’s hard to do your movement pitches, since you can’t really feel your hand. I just had to place my ball where the wind couldn’t affect where it was going."

Flesner liked what he saw from his team, especially from the production it has been making on offense specifically batters making contact and running the bases.

"I am very excited about how hard they are hitting the ball," Flesner said. "They are making good contact and being very aggressive on the base paths. Overall, you can tell they are just having a lot of fun with each other, which is huge." Flesner said the weather did play a factor, and that it was the highest amount of wind he has dealt with in the last decade since he has been Rantoul’s softball coach.

"We played in a lot of games with winds that are usually 25 to 35 miles an hour, and those winds were well over that," Flesner said. "It was probably the windiest game we have played in 10 years."

Rantoul Eagles hold off the Urbana Tigers

On Wednesday, Rantoul had a bit more of a challenge against the Urbana Tigers. The Eagles fell behind the Tigers 1-0 after the first inning.

The momentum of the game changed once Rantoul’s Jenna Sanford singled with two outs in the bottom of the third inning. Sherrick then doubled to score Sanford, to tie the game 1-1.

Despite that there being two outs, Rantoul’s Bella Shields got on base from a squeeze bunt. Sanford, who was on third base, was able to beat the throw to home and score. The play put Rantoul in the lead, 2-1.

"We have a lot of fast girls," Flesner said. "Our goal is to be very aggressive on the base paths, and we definitely took advantage of our speed there, tying it up and then taking the lead there in the same inning."

One of the plays of the game came from Sherrick, who played second base. Sherrick made a diving catch for a fly ball in right field over the foul line.

"Lexi is one of our aggressive players so if she thinks she can get the ball then she’ll do her best to dive for it," Sanford said. "Even if it is in the foul area of the outfield."

Rantoul added a third run in the fourth inning from an RBI single by Kianna Berlatsky. The Eagles held on to win the game, with the final score of 3-1.

Rantoul’s starting pitcher was Madisyn Walton for the game. Walton pitched all of seven innings and only allowed one run, as well as only one hit. Walton had a total of nine strikeouts. Just like his other pitcher, Sherrick, Flesner is confident in Walton’s pitching ability despite not getting much varsity experience last year. Flesner thinks both Walton and Sherick will make a dangerous pitching duo for Rantoul this season.

"She has much improved from last year as well," Flesner said. "Right now, her and Lexi complement each other very well. I feel confident putting both of them on the mound against anybody we play." Rantoul also defeated the Maroa-Forsyth Trojans on March 12, 12-3. Rantoul’s lead pitcher, Sherrick, threw for six innings and had a total of 12 strikeouts. Next up for the Eagles will be a home game at Wabash Park against the Fisher Bunnies on Thursday. First pitch will be at 4:30 p.m.

Contact Ben Theobald at btheobald@rantoulpress.com