RIVER FOREST, Ill. - The Rockford University baseball team (15-17, 9-6 NACC) took another step closer to securing a spot in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference Tournament on Sunday when the Regents split their two games with tenth-ranked Concordia University Chicago (27-9, 14-4 NACC). Rockford played two very strong games against the first-place Cougars, as the Regents trailed for just one inning the entire day. Rockford was in control for the vast majority of the opener and picked up an impressive 5-2 win before falling late in game two by a final score of 7-6.
Rockford never trailed in game one as the Regents scored a pair of runs in the top of the second to take a quick 2-0 lead. Seniors Austin Smith (Peru, Ill.) and Chris Carlson (Schaumburg, Ill.) jump-started the inning with back-to-back singles to put runners on first and second with no one out. One batter later, fellow senior Michael Tosado (Chicago, Ill.) doubled into left field to drive in the first run of the game, and give his team a 1-0 lead. The final run of the inning came when Kyle Waugh (Waseca, Minn.) drove in Carlson on an RBI groundout to put the Regents in front 2-0.
The Cougars however would answer right back with a single run in both the bottom of the second and third innings to tie the game at 2-2. Concordia Chicago scored its first run of the day in the second off two hits and a pair of Rockford errors, making it a 2-1 game. One inning later, the Cougars strung together back-to-back doubles to tie the game at 2-2 after three innings of play.
Fortunately the Regents responded with a run in the top of the fourth to retake the lead. Again it was Austin Smith and Chris Carlson that got the rally started, with a leadoff single back up the middle and a walk. Rockford would then take advantage of a Cougar error to load the bases with no one out. Two batters later, Corey Saracco (Montgomery, Ill.) drove in his first run of the day on an RBI groundout, as Rockford moved back in front 3-2.
Rockford would add a pair of insurance runs in the seventh to further extend its lead. Kraemer Brandt (Elk Grove, Ill.) drew a walk to begin the inning, and then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Following a Bryce Hinkelman (Ottawa, Ill.) single, which put runners on the corners with one out, Austin Smith again came through with an RBI double to score Brandt, and make it a 4-2 Rockford advantage. The Regents would tack on one additional run off a wild pitch to extend their lead to 5-2.
That is all the run support the RU pitching staff would need, as they were outstanding the entire game. Senior Thomas Bolen (Tucson, Ariz.) got the start in the opener and did not disappoint. Bolen fired six strong innings and allowed just one earned run, while striking out six. Joseph Kmiec (Bolingbrook, Ill.) took over for Bolen in the seventh and threw the final three innings of the game. After allowing back-to-back singles to begin the seventh, Kmiec settled down and dominated the Cougars from that point forward. The lefty retired the final eight batters of the game to secure the 5-2 win and earn his second save of the year.
Austin Smith, Chris Carlson and Michael Tosado all finished with multi-hit performances. Smith led the way going 3-for-5 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI. Tosado finished 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI, and Carlson went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
Game two also got off to a great start as Rockford again jumped out to an early lead with two runs in the top of the first. Brett Down (Princeville, Ill.) and Bryce Hinkelman reached base safely after a hit by pitch and a walk, to put runners on first and second with one out. Two batters later, Chris Carlson drove in both Down and Hinkelman with a two-run single to put his team in front 2-0 heading into the bottom of the first.
Much like in game one, the Cougars were able to answer with a single run in the bottom of the first. Concordia Chicago used one hit and took advantage of one Rockford error to score an unearned run and cut Rockford's lead down to one, at 2-1.
Fortunately Rockford responded with three runs in the third and another run in the fourth to leap out to a 6-1 advantage. In the third, it was Kraemer Brandt and Brett Down who got things started with a bunt single and walk to put runners on first and second with no one out. Two batters later, senior Austin Smith crushed a three-run home run over the left field wall to put Rockford in front 5-1. In the fourth, it was once again Brandt and Down who jump-started the offense, this time with back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners with one out. Catcher Bryce Hinkelman then used a sacrifice fly to score Brandt and make it a 6-1 game.
Senior starting pitcher Dalton Morris (Somonauk, Ill.) did an excellent job on the mound in game two, giving Rockford six strong innings. Morris allowed just three earned runs over his six innings of work, while striking out two.
The Regents would turn the game over to the bullpen in the seventh with a 6-4 lead, but unfortunately the high-powered Cougar offense came to life in the final two innings. Concordia Chicago would tie the game with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh and then take their first lead of the entire day with a single run in the eighth. Rockford was unable to score a run in the ninth and dropped game two by a final score of 7-6.
Rockford had seven hits in the nightcap spread out over six players. Kraemer Brandt was the lone Regent with multiple hits, going 2-for-5 with a pair of runs scored. Austin Smith hit his first home run as a Regent and had three RBIs. Chris Carlson finished with a single and a pair of RBIs. Brett Down scored a pair of runs, while Bryce Hinkelman scored a run and drove in a run.
The RU baseball team returns home on Monday, April 30 to finish its halted game from earlier in the month against Concordia Wisconsin. The score is currently tied 4-4 in the top of the tenth and the Falcons have the bases loaded with one out. The game will resume at 5 PM at Rivets Stadium.