ROCK FALLS – Gage Burdick struck out 12 batters and worked six hitless, scoreless innings to lead Dixon to a 9-2 win over Rock Falls on Thursday.
He allowed seven baserunners, walking four batters and hitting three, but kept working his way out of jams.
He couldn’t finish it off, having reached the 98-pitch mark to end the sixth, but by then the Dukes had a 9-0 lead and it was too big of a hole for the Rockets to escape.
His cutter was especially effective, and the 10 mph difference between his fastball and his off-speed pitches was more than Rocket hitters could handle.
“That and the changeup, and just switching directions on the plate, using the plate inside and out, up and down,” Burdick said.
Burdick got into some trouble in the second, hitting Isaiah Kobbeman to lead off the inning and walking Gavin Sands and Brady Richards to load the bases with no one out. But he struck out the next two batters he faced and got Drew Ebersole to line out to shortstop to end the inning.
In the third, he again hit a batter and issued a walk, but a pair of strikeouts and a slow roller back to the mound ended that threat.
That started a string of nine consecutive batters retired, as he pitched 1-2-3 innings in the fourth and fifth, striking out four and needing just 26 pitches to get through those two innings.
“He was really the difference,” Rock Falls coach Donnie Chappell said. “He was really good. He is as good a lefty as we’ve seen in probably a few years, and he did a nice job of everything. You’ve got to tip your hat to him, he was really good.”
Burdick again got into a jam in the sixth, as another hit batter and a walk put two on, but a pop up to short ended that inning.
“He had all of his pitches working,” Dixon coach Jason Burgess said. “He did a good job of just competing. After that first inning, he made a baserunning blunder, took a little bit of frustration with himself out to the mound, struggled, then he bowed his head a little bit and got himself out of that jam. So, compliments to him on that.
“A lot of these guys, it’s just a matter of starting to learn how to play the game, and not just that, the battle in themselves. I think that was just him dealing with that.”
Rock Falls eventually got on the board in the bottom of the seventh off of reliever Ethan Van Horn. A one-out single to left by Ebersole broke up the bid for the combined no-hitter, and Ebersole eventually scored on a wild pitch, with Dillon Schueler later driving in Chase Chappell with a ground-rule double before Van Horn got a strikeout to end the game.
Dixon’s offense gave Burdick plenty of run support.
The Dukes got on the board in the top of the first when Ryan Pitzer led off with a double and later scored on a wild pitch.
In the second, Burdick drove in Van Horn with a single up the middle, and Griffey Rodriguez scored on a sacrifice fly to center off the bat of Eli Dever. Van Horn then singled home Beau Evans in the fourth to make it 4-0.
Dixon (5-0, 4-0 Big Northern) added four runs in the top of the fifth. A two-out, two-on single by Rodriguez plated Evans and Michael Ullrich. After Rodriguez scored on a wild pitch, Dever singled to drive in Jacob Gaither.
“Everyone was putting bat on ball, balls were getting through,” Burdick said.
Rock Falls (3-4-1, 3-2 BNC) starter Chase Chappell worked four innings, allowing one earned run, as well as three unearned runs, on six hits. He struck out three. Brady Richards struck out two in two innings of relief.
“Chase had the same stuff he’s had in every other outing this year, and one earned run,” Donnie Chappell said. “If we catch a couple balls, make a few plays, now it’s 1-0 in the fourth inning and it’s a different game. That’s just what we’ve got to do, make some easy routine plays we didn’t do today. Changes everything, changes your at-bats. That was the disappointing thing for us.”