Wed May 9, 2012
By Sean Duncan
ROCKFORD, IL – Call it mojo. Call it confidence. Whatever you call it, No. 23 Rockford Boylan has plenty to spare.
“I don’t know what it is. If I could bottle it, I would sell it,” said Boylan coach Chris Rozanski.
Boylan’s mojo is definitely rising, as the scorching-hot Titans ripped off their 17th straight victory Wednesday, this time by scoring nine runs in the sixth inning, effectively turning a close game into a 14-4 mercy-rule victory against NIC-10 rival Machesney Park Harlem.
After starting the season 4-7, the Titans improve to 21-7 and 13-0 in the NIC-10, further distancing themselves from Harlem (21-8, 10-3), which was the preseason conference favorite after finishing fifth at the IHSBCA summer state tournament. Boylan won the previous matchup, 3-2, last week.
“We’re having fun, playing loose,” said Boylan senior RHP/SS Joe Kubera, who did just about everything Wednesday to help Boylan extend its winning streak. “We’re all playing hard, the balls are bouncing our way, and we don’t get down.”
Boylan’s top four hitters were remarkably productive Wednesday, combining to go 12-for-15 with nine runs and eight RBI. Kubera set the tone in the leadoff spot, going 3-for-4 with four runs, a double and an RBI. Junior centerfielder Danny Appino went 4-for-4 with a triple, double, four RBI and two runs scored. The diminutive left-handed hitter also laid down a sacrifice bunt in which he got down the line in 3.82 seconds. Zach Stoner, a 6-foot-4 Southern Illinois-bound C/1B who is one of the top left-handed hitting prospects in the state, went 3-for-4 with a walk and RBI.
Then there was senior second baseman Adonis Brown, who hit a solo homer to left-center against Harlem hard-throwing ace Drake Robison (5-4). Brown also ended the game with a run-scoring double in the sixth to employ the mercy rule, and finished with three RBI.
Believe it or not, Harlem took a brief 4-3 lead when the Huskies scored four runs on five hits against Boylan left-handed starter Bryan Engelsen. Boylan quickly reclaimed a 5-4 lead in the bottom half of the inning on Appino’s two-run double.
The game remained 5-4 heading into the bottom of the sixth. Harlem went to the pen, ending the day for Robison, an Iowa Western CC recruit whose fastball sat in the 84-86 range and climbed as high as 89 in the first inning.
The floodgates opened.
Boylan scored nine runs on six hits, four walks and one hit batter against three Harlem pitchers. The Huskies walked four runners in and hit one batter with the bases loaded.
“As soon as Drake (Robison) came out of the game, the game was ours,” said Stoner. “This is a blast. Hopefully we keep going.”
Engelsen (6-2), a Judson recruit, picked up the win after allowing seven hits and four runs in four innings. The left-hander struck out three. Kubera came in and pitched two scoreless innings of relief, allowing no hits with two strikeouts and a walk. One of the top unsigned arms in the state, Kubera’s fastball sat in the 84-86 range to go along with a sharp 73-75 mph curveball.
“The good thing about us is we don’t get down,” Kubera said. “Everybody hit today. It was a great team win.”
Dylan Elmer, who went 1-for-1 with two walks, gave Harlem its only lead with a two-run triple in the fourth inning. Parker Anderson also went 1-for-1 with two walks.