By Mark Schaer
In 2016, the Rockford Rivets barely missed the playoffs in their first year as members of the Northwoods League. This year, they are looking to make up for lost time.
After starting the year 0-2, Rockford has won six of its last eight games and entered Tuesday’s game against the Madison Mallards in fourth place in the South Division, with a record of 8-6.
As a member of the Northwoods League, Rockford fields some of the best collegiate baseball players in the country. Many of these players, hailing from the likes of Texas Tech, Louisiana State, Arkansas and Illinois, amongst other schools, are major league baseball prospects. What makes the Northwoods League so unique is that a vast majority of these players have not played with or against their teammates before. But you wouldn’t be able to tell that when you visit Rivets Stadium.
From acrobatic catches in center field to towering home runs, the Rivets are showing their worth as second-year members of the league. Rockford is currently midway through a six-game homestand, where they have won their first three games by a combined score of 27-12.
Rockford began the season on May 30 visiting Kalamazoo for two games against the Growlers, but were unable to come away with a win. Their homecoming was much more fun – they defeated the Wisconsin Woodchucks 8-2 on June 1 and 11-2 on June 2. With the exception of two close losses to the Battle Creek Bombers on June 3 and 4, Rockford has been stellar since their first two home games. They took to the road for a four-game trip on June 5 and returned to Rockford winning three of four games; two wins came against the Fond du Lac Dock Spiders and one against the Madison Mallards.
The past three games have shown how high the ceiling is for Rockford this year. A combination of strong pitching appearances and plenty of offense have led Rockford to three straight victories back at Rivets Stadium. The Rivets ran the Dock Spiders out of town with another two-game sweep on June 9 and June 10. June 10 may have been the most exciting game of the year – Rockford came in without having recorded a home run on the year, but finished the day with three. John Rave (Illinois State) went deep to center field and Zach Rheams (Texas Tech) and JC DeMuri (Quincy University) added back-to-back solo shots later in the game to lead Rockford. The Rivets stayed hot against the Kenosha Kingfish, and DeMuri had another home run; this time, it was a bases-loaded jack in the first inning en route Sunday’s 9-5 victory.
While some consider hitting to be the most exciting part of baseball, it does not tell the entire story. The Rivets have shown off some great pitching as well. Anthony Dahl (Arkansas) received the Northwoods League Pitcher of the Night award on June 7 in a win at Madison. In eight innings pitched, Dahl gave up no runs and recorded 13 strikeouts to lead Rockford to a 1-0 win. Jack Granath, a Hononegah alum and native of Rockton, has had some good start for the Rivets. His record sits at 2-1 thus far and he has an ERA of 3.86. R.
The Rivets present a unique opportunity for the Rockford area. For 24 more nights this summer, residents can make their way to Rivets Stadium in Loves Park and enjoy competitive baseball on the field at an affordable price. In addition to tickets starting at just $8, the finale of the current homestand, scheduled for 6:35 p.m. tonight vs. the Madison Mallards, is Weiner Wednesday, featuring $1 hot dogs. Call 815-240-4159 or visit RockfordRivets.com for ticket information.