OXFORD — Thanks to junior Austin Francis, Rensselaer Central’s baseball team was able to pick up a rare rout of Hoosier Conference foe Benton Central Monday night in the Bombers’ season opener.
Francis hit for the cycle — single, double, triple and home run — and had five RBIs to lead the Bombers’ 11-hit attack. On the mound, he struck out 12 batters over 5 2/3 innings in his team’s 12-3 victory.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment for Francis, who was reminded by his coach to enjoy it.
“He couldn’t have asked for a better first game,” said Bombers coach Matt Stevens. “You don’t think that’s going to happen ever. It was an amazing day for him. I told him to relish what he did because not a lot of people do that. Enjoy it tonight, talk about it with the family, celebrate it and then tomorrow we’ve got to play again.”
Junior Jacob Pickering provided 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief for RCHS, which hosts the Bison Tuesday night. Francis and Pickering limited the Bison to just three hits.
Stevens said Francis has put the time in to earn the team’s ace pitcher role.
“He’s put in a lot of hard work,” Stevens said. “He goes to a hitting instructor, a pitching instructor. That showed opening day. There’s a reason why he’s in the middle of the lineup. There’s a reason why he’s our number one. He throws low to mid-80s and has a lot of power.”
Adding to the Bombers’ hit total were sophomores Kelton Hesson and Tommy Boyles with two hits apiece. Pickering, junior Lakin Webb and junior Kenseth Johns added singles.
For the Bison, senior Nick Fry was 2 for 3 with an RBI double. Freshman Brylan Hedden and senior Dalton Rennaker added singles, with Rennaker driving in a run.
BC’s No. 1 pitcher, senior Connor Hall, allowed five runs on six hits in 3 2/3 innings of work. He struck out five and walked five.
Reliever Jesse Stout had three strikeouts and four walks in 1 1/3 innings, allowing six runs on five hits.
The Bombers trailed 1-0 through two innings before taking the lead for good with two runs in the top of the third. They led 5-1 when they blew the game open with a five-run fifth inning.