Baseball Takes Care of Business with Sweep of Lakeland

Zachary Jones
Zachary Jones

PLYMOUTH, Wis. - The Rockford University baseball team (17-20, 11-9 NACC) did its part to earn a postseason berth on Saturday by sweeping the Lakeland University Muskies (8-23, 4-16 NACC), 10-0 and 7-5. Rockford will now need to wait until the conclusion of Sunday's slate of NACC action to see if it earns one of the two remaining spots in the conference tournament. The Regents will need either Benedictine to lose both of its games to MSOE or Concordia Wisconsin to lose one of its two games to Edgewood in order to earn a postseason berth.

Sophomore starting pitcher Zachary Jones (Rockford, Ill.) was dominant for Rockford in the opener against the Muskies. Jones tossed seven shutout innings allowing just two hits and tying his season-high with nine strikeouts. With the win, he improves to 7-1 and is just one win away from tying the RU school record for wins in a season. The right-hander is also near the top of the conference in nearly every individual pitching category. Jones is currently second in wins (7), fourth in strikeouts (62), third in strikeouts per nine innings (10.33) and third in the NACC in earned run average amongst pitchers with at least eight starts (2.67).

Rockford broke the scoreless tie in the top of the third with a trio of runs, before adding two more in the fourth. The Regents showed excellent plate discipline in the third by drawing a trio of walks to load the bases with two outs. Senior Michael Tosado (Chicago, Ill.) then came through with a clutch three-run double to give Rockford a 3-0 lead. The Regents added two more runs in the fourth, both of which once again came with two outs. Following a leadoff walk and a sacrifice bunt to begin the inning, senior Bryce Hinkelman (Ottawa, Ill.) drove in the first run of the frame with an RBI single to make it a 4-0 game. One batter later, Austin Smith (Lena, Ill.) drove in Hinkelman with an RBI double to extend Rockford's lead to 5-0 after four innings of play.

The Regents would then put the game away with five more runs in the seventh and eighth innings. Austin Smith and Chris Carlson (Schaumburg, Ill.) began the seventh with back-to-back singles to put two runners aboard with no one out. A couple of batters later, John Mareks (Tucson, Ariz.) drove in both runners with a two-run single through the right side of the infield to put Rockford in front 7-0 heading into the eighth. Rockford scored its final three runs of the game in the top of the eighth, all of which came with two outs. Brett Down (Princeville, Ill.) and Chris Carlson each singled early on in the frame to put two runners on base. Michael Tosado and John Mareks followed with back-to-back RBI singles to make it 9-0. Rockford would tack on one final run via a wild pitch to take a 10-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth.

Senior pitcher Dalton Morris (Somonauk, Ill.) took over for Jones in the eighth and held the Muskies scoreless to preserve the 10-0 win. Morris allowed just one hit and struck out one over his inning of work.

Offensively the Regents had five players record multi-hit performances in game one. John Mareks had the most hits of any Regent in the opener, going 4-for-5 with three RBIs. Brett Down finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored. Michael Tosado was 2-for-5 with 2 runs scored and tied his season-high with four RBIs. Austin Smith was also 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. Chris Carlson finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored. 

Game two also got off to a good start as Rockford jumped out to a 6-0 lead after five innings of play. The Regents would break the scoreless tie with a pair of runs in the second. Michael Tosado, Kyle Waugh (Waseca, Minn.) and Corey Saracco (Montgomery, Ill.) strung together back-to-back-to-back singles to load the bases with one out. Two batters later, Kraemer Brandt (Elk Grove, Ill.) ripped a two-run single through the right side of the infield to give his team an early 2-0 lead. Rockford would add four more runs off just two hits in the fifth. Austin Smith began the inning with a leadoff double, followed by a walk to put runners on first and second with no one out. Two batters later, Kyle Waugh crushed a three-run home run to extend the Regents' lead to 5-0. Rockford would add one additional run later in the inning off a Brett Down sacrifice fly to make it a 6-0 game heading into the sixth. 

Unlike in game one, the Muskies were able to climb back into the game with a five-run sixth inning. Lakeland scored five runs off four hits and took advantage of three Rockford errors to pull back within a single run at 6-5, heading into the top of the seventh. 

Rockford added an insurance run in the top of the ninth off a pair of hits. Kraemer Brandt got the rally started with a single, followed by a Brett Down double to put runners on second and third with one out. Senior Bryce Hinkelman then drove in Brandt via a sacrifice fly to make it a 7-5 game. 

The Rockford pitching staff would take it from there, as the duo of starting pitcher Thomas Bolen (Tucson, Ariz.) and reliever Christian Dahlstrom (Clermont, Fla.) secured the win and the sweep of the Muskies. Bolen tossed the first the first five innings of the game to pick up his second win of the season. The senior right-hander scattered six hits and allowed just three earned runs, while striking out eight. Dahlstrom would then take over in the sixth and throw the final four innings of the game. The freshman allowed no runs off five hits and struck out six. Dahlstrom's effort earned him his eighth save of the season, which ties the RU career saves record.

The Regents once again had five players tally multiple hits in the nightcap. Kyle Waugh went 3-for-5 with a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored. Corey Saracco was also 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored. Michael Tosado went 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Kraemer Brandt finished 3-for-5 with three RBIs and a run scored. Austin Smith was 2-for-6 with a double and a run scored. 

Rockford currently has numerous individuals at or near the top of the conference in multiple categories. Brett Down is now tied for the NACC lead with 16 doubles on the year, despite playing in two less games than the other co-leader. He is also tied for second in the NACC with 36 runs scored and tied for fourth with three triples, again despite playing in two less games than the conference leader. Austin Smith tied for fifth in the NACC with 51 hits and 34 runs scored, tied for sixth with 12 doubles and tied for fourth with 33 RBIs. Bryce Hinkelman is tied for third in the NACC with five home runs. Michael Tosado is sixth in the NACC with 31 RBIs and tied for ninth with a .350 batting average. Kyle Waugh is now tied for sixth in the NACC with three home runs, Kraemer Brandt is tied for tenth in the NACC with 20 walks and Corey Saracco is tenth in the NACC with 11 stolen bases.