RANTOUL — Nolan Roseman did it on the mound and at the plate for Rantoul.
The Rantoul Eagles and Prairie Central Hawks were scoreless going into the bottom of the seventh inning.
Roseman’s at bat in the seventh
There were two outs and runners on first and second for Roseman. The pitch count was 3-1. Roseman launched the next pitch over right field fence for a three-run home run to give his team the 3-0 win on Friday.
“I knew that my team put me in a good position and that I needed to come through for them,” Roseman said. “I’m just glad that my teammates were out there and gave me the opportunity to make a play like that. I was ready to do everything I can to win today.”
That opportunity for Roseman would not have happened if it wasn’t for a few plays that went the Eagles’ way. Nolan Riddle reached on an in-field error after and advanced on Will Wake’s sacrifice bunt.
Casey Dillman hit a ground ball to Hawks third base man Lyndon Whitfill, who tried to get Riddle out at second, but was not successful and resulted in Dillman reaching first.
“We were very fortunate to get out of that situation since that should have been an out,” coach Jon Donovan said. “We teach aggressiveness on the bases, but that was a little bit too aggressive. It worked out in our favor.”
Roseman also pitched for the Eagles and gave a notable performance. Roseman pitched seven innings, struck out 13 and allowed only one hit that came in the top of the seventh.
“When we are working together and everybody is making plays, then it’s a lot of fun,” Roseman said. “I was just trying to go out there and just let them hit the ball. Make them put it in play and let my teammates just do the work for me.”
Donovan said Roseman’s pitching performance was the best he has had so far this season.
“He’s had some good outings, and he’s had no run support,” Donovan said. “As a pitcher, he understands that there are only certain things he can control out there. His job is to pound the zone and keep runners of base as much as possible.”
The Eagles had scoring opportunities prior to the seventh. In the fourth, Chad Vermillion walked and reached second after a sacrifice bunt by Riddle. Wake singled, but Vermillion was thrown out at the plate.
“Chad had to retreat back to second base because there was a possibility of the catch,” Donovan said. “He didn’t have full momentum when he was coming. It was still a bang-bang play. I would have sent him 100 out of 100 times.”
Ryan Rhoda opened on the mound for Prairie Central. He gave up two hits, two walks and struck out two in three innings. The two hits came from Adam Crites who singled in the first and a double by Hunter Hoffman in the third.
“I thought our guys had good aggressive swings on Rhoda’s fastball,” Donovan said. “We didn’t have anything to show for it in terms of runs, but we were getting guys on base in scoring position early in the game. We didn’t see that early in the season or even midway part of the season.”
Donovan said he has challenged his team for the past week to have a better approach on offense against high-velocity pitching.
“That would be about 80 [mph] plus,” Donovan said. “For the last week that’s what we have been doing inside at the facility. We have been working with high velocity off of the machine and learning how to have a better approach. What to look for depending on the count.”
The Eagles record is 12-9 after their conference win.
Roseman said the team continues to improve.
“I think we just got to keep working and keep growing as a team,” Roseman said. “Once we get that hitting going and our fielding is a little bit better than it is right now, then I think we are going to be a pretty tough team to beat.”
A few weeks ago before a practice, Donovan and assistant coach Alan Jones Jr. had a conversation about Roseman and how fortunate the team is to have a player like him.
“I said, ‘Do you know how fortunate we are as a program to have players like Nolan Roseman?’” Donovan said. “We have a kid who can pitch, play the outfield, hit for power, run the bases, is a good teammate and a good student. These type of players don’t come around very often.”
Eagles will go on the road
The next game for the Eagles will be on the road against Bloomington Central on Wednesday. The first pitch will be at 4:30 p.m.
Contact Ben Theobald at firstname.lastname@example.org