ROCK FALLS – The Rock Falls Rockets baseball team started and finished strong in a 13-8 victory over Big Northern foe Stillman Valley on Thursday.
Rock Falls (1-6) started off hot, both offensively and defensively. A 1-2-3 top half of the first set up a six-run bottom half, giving the Rockets their best start of the year. Jacob Mammosser highlighted the two-out rally by bouncing a standing double off of the left-field fence to drive in senior Austin Donoho from first.
"Fastballs right down the middle, pretty much, it wasn't anything other than what I always do. I wish I had more than warning-track power though," Mammosser said. "I kept hitting the fence. I said I was going to hit one out today, but I only hit the fence."
On the mound, Cayden Erickson kept his team ahead during the middle part of the game. He gave up only one run and four hits through four innings. After the Rockets scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth inning, Erickson got into a little trouble in the fifth.
Despite pitching with confidence, he gave up four runs in the inning on four hits, including a home run from Cardinal first baseman Zac Hare. But Erickson got out of the inning with an 8-5 lead. He finished with nine strikeouts to only one walk.
"We talked to the guys about having a positive approach, and going up there without trying to do too much," Stillman Valley coach Scott Wilhite said. "That's our approach anyway, and we try to preach that approach any way we can."
"I was confident going out there," Erickson said. "It was my third game out there, and I relied on my defense, and they made plays. It was nice pitching [with the lead]; I've never felt like that before. It was awesome to get the first win at the varsity level."
After Rock Falls went down in order in the bottom of the fifth, senior Dustin Huycke took over pitching duties. Some damage was done, but Huycke kept it to a minimum, as he gave up two runs on three hits in the inning, preserving an 8-7 lead.
In the bottom half, the Rockets' bats once again heated up. With the top of the lineup due up, the first five hitters reached base and eventually scored for Rock Falls. Mammosser picked up another pair of RBIs. He finished with four RBIs on three hits, which included a pair of doubles.
"We swung the bats better, probably the best we have all season," Rockets coach Donnie Chappell said. "That's the first time all year I think we've had the lead, and we kind of got flat and thought we had to game won. We did a nice job. Jacob had a nice hit in the sixth, and he hit well all day."
In the top of the seventh, the Rockets again ran into some trouble. Stillman loaded the bases in four batters before a run was walked in with only one out. Donoho came in to get out of the jam, and he did just that. He struck out the ensuing batter before giving up a seeing-eye single that surrendered a run.
However, the Rockets kept their cool, and Donoho forced a ground ball to short.
"We're all in a slump now, and I think that's going to change here. I think we'll start winning more," said Erickson. "We were just going through the motions, but now we want to play like it's a life-or-death situation."
"There's many more wins to come now," added Mammosser. "It's definitely the best to get that first one. We need to keep hitting the ball and keep pitching with less errors."