ROCK FALLS – The difference in Wednesday's baseball game between the Rock Falls Rockets and the Sherrard Tigers might have been a sliding catch by right fielder Reid Akerman.
The Rock Falls sophomore pulled the heroics with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning. It concluded a quickly paced 6-2 win for the Rockets (12-7).
"You know there were a few plays today that we didn't make that we should have," Rock Falls coach Donnie Chappell said. "But then we made some really good plays. If Reid doesn't make that play in the seventh, who knows what happens."
What if is the question the Tigers will be asking after taking a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth.
Left-handed sophomore Nathan Earl had kept the Rockets' bats in check through five innings by throwing strikes and relying on his defense. The few hard-hit balls by the Rockets were hit on a line into Tigers defensemen's gloves.
That is until Clay Velazquez led off the sixth with double to the right-field fence. Next up was Dustin Huycke, who laid down a slow-rolling bunt down the third-base line. No one could recover the ball quick enough to get the speedy Huycke at first.
Earl then jumped out to a 0-2 count on Dallas Jones. The No. 3 hitter refused to go down easy, and eventually coaxed the walk. That loaded the bases and marked the end of the day for Earl.
Blake Lampo took over and got Jacob Mammosser to ground into a fielder's choice that forced Velazquez out at the plate.
That brought up Donoho, who had started the day on the mound before shifting to shortstop. Huycke scored on a wild pitch to Donoho, who later in the count smacked a 1-2 pitch up the middle to score two more runs and give Rock Falls a 4-2 lead.
"There are going to be days where you hit the ball hard and it's right at them," Donoho said. "There's not much you can do about it. But, Clay does a great job of leading off, and his double got us going."
Donoho moved to second on a throw to the plate on his RBI single. He came around to score as he stole third, and the throw down to third sailed into left field. Cayden Erickson would drive in Trace Hippen later in the inning with a single to push the lead to 6-2.
"I wasn't exactly happy with how we played early," Chappell said. "We were a little lazy at times. But we snapped out of it and fought back against a pretty strong team."
Erickson (4-1) earned the win with three innings of relief. He allowed a single run in the fifth, and then loaded the bases in the seventh with two outs before Akerman ended it with his diving catch.
Donoho pitched the first four innings. Sherrard (14-4) scored its first run in the first on two walks and an error.
"I thought both kids pitched pretty well," Chappell said. "This is our only game this week, and we wanted to get our top two guys work. I don't think Cayden was used to coming out of the bullpen, but he battled with it."
"I gave up a couple walks in that first inning, but overall I felt pretty good out there," Donoho said. "Our defense played pretty good today, and Cayden came in and did great to finish it off."
The Rockets scored a lone run in the first on an RBI single by Mammosser that scored Huycke.
Star of the game: Austin Donoho, Rock Falls, 2 H, 2B, 2 RBI
Key performers: Nathan Earl, Sherrard, 5 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 H, 3 SO, 2 BB; Dustin Huycke, Rock Falls, 1 H, 2 runs
Up next: Rock Falls at Mendota, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday