DIXON – Sam Gallucci walked off the field Monday stunned after watching his Dixon baseball team fall to Rochelle 7-4 in a quarterfinal of the 3A Rochelle Regional.
The Dukes, the fourth seed, hosted Rochelle – the five seed with just two wins on the season – at Veterans Memorial Field 2 days after beating the Hubs 11-9 in a regular-season game.
"We'd like to switch those games around, that's for sure," the Dixon coach said. "This is just a down feeling. We did some nice things this season, and I think we all felt like we could advance deeper into the regional."
Rochelle (3-23) will host the top-seeded Sycamore Spartans on Wednesday in a semifinal game. Rock Falls and Sterling will meet in the other semifinal on Thursday.
The trouble for the Dukes (10-23) started in the top of the first, as the first three Hubs reached on walks by Dixon's Dan Pultorak.
Pultorak battled back by striking out T.J. Maynard and Dylan Hopkins before issuing his fourth walk of the inning, to Ricky Snyder, to score Rochelle's first run of the game. He then struck out Doug Johnson to end the inning.
Pultorak walked two more and hit a batter in the second, which led to two more runs for Rochelle. He was lifted for sophomore Mitchell Wolfe, who after hitting a batter himself, settled in for 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
The reprieve allowed Dixon to have its first and only productive inning at the plate in the third.
Kelson Spinden led off with a double. After Pultorak struck out, John Thomas hit a triple down the right-field line to get Dixon on the board.
Dixon scored three more times in the frame, with the big hit being a two-run single by Alex Strum.
"It felt like the momentum was swinging back in our direction," Thomas said. "We were squaring up the ball and hitting it hard. We hit the ball hard all day, but most of the game it was right to them."
The inning ended with a double play where Ryan Dixon was forced out at second and then was called for interference as Maynard, the shortstop, tried to make the throw to first base.
"That double play just seemed to stop us," Gallucci said. "It killed the momentum we had built up."
Thomas came in and pitched a scoreless top of the fourth as Dixon held a 4-3 advantage, but he got into trouble in the fifth.
After a groundout to start the inning, he walked Snyder and hit each of the next two batters. Another walk forced in the tying run and spelled the end for Thomas on the mound.
"I just didn't have it today," Thomas said. "I came into today focused on hitting, and I just couldn't locate when I was pitching."
Owen Van Horn relieved Thomas and walked the first batter with the bases loaded to give Rochelle the 5-4 lead.
"We've been on the opposite side of that for most of the season," Rochelle coach Nick Reineck said. "We're usually the ones giving up the free passes."
Dixon's five pitchers combined for 12 walks and five hit batters. Rochelle finished with four hits.
"Too many walks and too many hit batters," Gallucci said. "That adds up to a loss. Our pitchers couldn't find the zone, and we didn't drive in runs when we had the chance to."
Rochelle starter Tyler Joyce worked all seven innings with 10 strikeouts, one walk and one hit-by-pitch.
"Tyler hit his spots," Reineck said. "He got into trouble in one inning, but once he got through that he settled down and threw very well the rest of the game."
Star of the game: Tyler Joyce, Rochelle, 7 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 7 H, 10 SO, 1 BB, 1 HBP
Key performers: Alex Strum, Dixon, 2 hits, 2B, 2 RBIs; Doug Johnson, Rochelle, 2 RBIs
Up next: 3A Rochelle Regional semifinal – Rochelle vs. Sycamore, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday