Top 10 Stories of 2015: No. 6 Rockford Christian Wins First State Title
December 23, 2015
By Drew Locascio
Illinois Scouting Director
Over the next few weeks, in addition to highlighting the Top 10 Player Profiles of 2015, we will also highlight the Top 10 Stories in Illinois high school baseball during the 2015 calendar year.
Today, the No. 6 story on the list is: Rockford Christian Wins First State Title.
The Rockford Christian Royal Lions won their first baseball state title in school history in 2015. The Royal Lions edged St. Bede in the Semi-final 2-1 to advance to the title game against Williamsville. Senior DH Jake Kellerman set the tone in the championship game by launching two home runs. The Royal Lions did not look back and eventually won 6-2. Senior 6-foot-7 RHP Brandon Williams pounded the strike zone and took the victory on the mound. 2016 graduate RHP/INF Nolan Gazouski recently committed to Ranger College closed the game out for the Royal Lions. Gazouski also threw three scoreless innings in the semi-final game to secure the win against St. Bede.
To read more about the semi-final game CLICK HERE.
The Story from June 6:
Jake Kellerman Launches Two Homers To Lead Rockford Christian To First State Title
By Ryan Quigley
PEORIA, IL – Rockford Christian senior designated hitter Jake Kellerman wrote a story book ending to his four-year varsity career and the Royal Lions’ season by launching two home runs in a 6-2 victory over Williamsville for the Class 2A State Championship on Saturday night at Dozer Park.
“We’ve always had the talent, but we brought it together this year. The camaraderie of our team was unbelievable. I never thought I’d hit two home runs in the championship game my senior year. I was just trying to the ball hard somewhere”, said Kellerman.
Kellerman got Rockford Christian (36-6) an early lead with a no-doubt solo shot to deep left field to lead off the second inning, taking an early 1-0 lead.
With senior co-ace Brandon Williams on the mound, runs would be at a premium for Williamsville (31-7). Williams 6-foot-7 frame pounded 78-81 mph fastballs on a downhill plane all night, resulting in few scoring opportunities for the Bullets.
Rockford Christian pushed the lead to 5-0 with a four run third. After junior outfielder Jacob Gugle scored on a wild pitch (1-for-1, walk, two runs), Jake McClellan reached on an error and junior shortstop Nolan Gazsouski singled up the middle to center. Kellerman stepped up to the plate and delivered the knock-out blow, a booming three run homer to deep left field.
“Kellerman has been doing this for four years for us, he’s always hit for power”, said coach Mike McClellan. “6-2 is not as dramatic as some of our close games (yesterday’s semifinal was a 2-1 extra-inning affair), but I’ll take it. We’ve been looking to break through as a program”.
Williamsville cut the lead to 5-1, getting on the board in the fourth with an RBI-groundout by freshman catcher Justin Beggs, scoring junior outfielder Vince Vignali (who singled to lead off the frame).
Rockford Christian added an insurance run int the top of the seventh on an RBI-single down the left field line by sophomore centerfielder David Prisby (2-for-3, walk).
Williams, a Truman State signee, improved to 10-2 on the hill, scattering seven hits with two strikeouts and one walk over his 6.2 innings of two-run baseball. He was lifted in favor of junior shortstop Nolan Gazsouski, who earned the win yesterday with three scoreless innings of relief in the 2-1 thriller over St. Bede Academy.
“The six runs today made it easy and gave me a lot of confidence on the mound”, said Williams. “It felt awesome to do this for my whole team”.
Gazsouski allowed a two strike hit to the first batter he faced, an RBI single up the middle Williamsville two-hole hitter Dan Daykin. The 6-foot-4 righthander bared down though, recording the final out and giving the Royal Lions the first state championship in school history. Gazsouski actually threw harder today with little rest, pumping 86-89 mph fastballs in his abbreviated outing.
McClellelan added, “Pitching like that makes coaching easy. Everyone was pitching on shorter rest due to the Super-Sectional getting pushed back with rain. It just shows what these guys are made of”.
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