ROCK FALLS – Austin Donoho and the Rock Falls Rockets tempted fate – or the Byron bats – one too many times on Tuesday in the matchup of Big Northern West favorites.
An inning after escaping a bases-loaded jam, Donoho walked in the tying run in the sixth inning before Austin Carlson singled in two more. That was all Tigers ace Nathan Peterson needed, as Byron won 6-4.
"I think after we fell behind, the team sort of rallied together," Carlson said. "I was able to get a big hit, but I think that had a lot to do with my team supporting me from the dugout."
Despite the loss, Rock Falls coach Donnie Chappell left the field encouraged after his team's first outing.
"There have been a lot of first games where I've seen a lot worse," Chappell said. "It was our first time against live pitching, and he was a very good pitcher. It was the first time our pitchers had been outside, and they struggled but kept battling."
Byron (4-0, 1-0) plated single runs in the second, third and fourth innings off of Rock Falls starter Dustin Huycke, who battled through pain. Chappell visited the mound during the third inning, and said that Huycke might have pulled a rib muscle.
Meanwhile, the Rock Falls bats struggled the first time through the lineup against Peterson. He had seven strikeouts in the first three innings.
"He was changing speeds really well," Rock Falls senior Dallas Jones said. "His curveball was really breaking. We did a nice job adjusting, but that was tough for the first game."
In the fourth, the Rockets (0-1, 0-1) got rolling. Huycke walked to start the inning, then moved to third on a single by Donoho.
Donoho then coaxed a throw to first and took off for second. The throw from first to Dennis Reedy at second bounced away, allowing Huycke to score from third.
Trace Hippen followed with a single – his second of the game – to score Donoho.
"It's not easy to start the season with a conference game," Hippen said. "They've already played three games. We battled though and started to get some hits."
The rally continued as Jones ripped a double, and then Cooper Kilberg drove in two runs with a single.
"We're a young team, but we know that everyone can hit up and down the lineup," Jones said. "We know that whoever is up is capable of delivering a big hit."
Peterson, who finished with 12 strikeouts, allowed only one hit after the fourth inning.
"He pitched a very nice game," Byron coach Ray Bielskis said. "Even in the fourth inning, I thought our defense made a couple bad decisions. He pitched very well against a tough lineup."
Star of the game: Nathan Peterson, Byron, 7 IP, 12 SO, 3 BB
Key performers: Austin Carlson, Byron, 2-run single in sixth inning; Trace Hippen, Rock Falls, 2 singles, RBI
Up next: Rock Falls at Byron, 4:30 p.m. Thursday