Baseball is a fickle lover. Throughout any season and at any level, every single team is bound to have a rough skid. Such being the case, responding appropriately is of paramount importance.
After a tough weekend preceding, the Hillsdale College baseball team rebounded properly this past weekend, taking three of four games from the Ashland Eagles in Ashland, Ohio.
According to head coach Eric Theisen, the difference between the two weeks came down to one simple thing: effort.
“We were a completely different team,” he said. “Even regardless of the outcome, we were just a completely different team.”
Theisen added that the effort was evident not only in the games, but also in preparation and pregame. As proof of this, he said the team keeps track of “dives and web gems” during pregame batting practice. Before being swept by Tiffin, the chart was blank. Before this weekend’s games, the chart showed 58 marks.
“It’s amazing what you can do when you flip on the switch and just work hard,” Theisen said.
In game one, the Eagles outhit the Chargers 16 – 9, but the Chargers were able to pair their hits with three Ashland errors, to secure a 8 – 6 victory.
Going into the sixth inning of the contest, Ashland held a 5 – 2 lead, but the Charger offense exploded, scoring six runs over the final two frames.
The nine Hillsdale hits come from six separate players, while the same number recorded RBIs, including two from senior DH Ethan Wiskur.
Wiskur said the mental difference from the team allowed them to stay focused on the task at hand.
“We had better attitudes, greater hustle on the field, and stayed focused and in the game even when we were down,” he said. “It was a big step forward for our team, but there is always room to be better.”
Junior captain Will Kruse took the mound and recorded the win for the Chargers, striking out seven eagles over six innings, while allowing five earned. On Monday morning, Kruse was awarded honorable mention GLIAC Pitcher of the Week honors.
“He continues to be a workhorse for us,” Theisen said of Kruse. “We look to him to set the tone in game one, and he does a good job of doing that.”
Freshman Dante Toppi tossed the final frame of the game, allowing one earned and striking out two to hold off the Eagles and pick up his second save of the season.
Game two of the series was an absolute lambasting by the Chargers, who outhit Ashland 18 – 5 on their way to a 16 – 2 victory.
Eleven different Chargers had hits in the thrashing, including three from Wiskur and junior second baseman Alex Walts and two from five others. Seven Hillsdale batters added RBIs, with Walts and sophomore Donald Ring each driving in three.
Freshman Kolton Rominski was stellar, firing eight innings of four hit ball, allowing only two earned and racking up seven strikeouts. Sophomore Tanner Sizemore finished the game, allowing one hit and no runs in the ninth.
“It’s easy to pitch with a defense like that behind you. Coach Gordie called a great game — keeping hitters off balance — and all I had to do was execute the plan,” Rominski said. “It was really nice for our team to get a big win like that and show that we can put some runs up like last year’s team.”
Hillsdale had another come-from-behind victory in game three. After falling behind 4 – 1 over the first three innings, the Chargers scored two in the fourth and three in the fifth, to pull to a 6 – 4 lead.
Tiffin would add one in the bottom of the fifth, before junior Phil Carey came in to shut them down, allowing only one hit in two innings of work.
Freshman Jeff Burch set the stage, starting the game, allowing five earned on six hits over five innings of work.
Wiskur had two hits in the game, including a two-run homerun in the fourth. Sophomores Colin Boerst — who earned honorable mention GLIAC Hitter of the Week honors — and Dylan Lottinville also each had two hits, recording one and three RBIs respectively. Ring tacked on an RBI of his own, while four other Chargers added a hit.
The final game of the series was the only one which the Chargers dropped, falling 14 – 3, despite only being outhit 15 – 11.
Eight different Chargers had hits, with multi-hit games from Boerst and Ring, who had two and three, respectively. Ring tallied the only two Hillsdale RBIs on a double in the top of the third.
The Chargers sent five separate pitchers to the bump, including junior Matt Young, who came on midway through the seventh to record six outs while allowing no hits.
Theisen said he was proud of his team on the weekend, noting again the team’s effort.
“I guarantee you that whether we won or lost the game this weekend, they would tell you that they just enjoyed the weekend more, from being involved in every moment and every pitch,” he said. “I was proud of them to make the decision individually and as a group that they were going to step up their expectation levels of themselves and of each other. It’s amazing what a group can do when they hold each other to high standards.”
The 3 – 1 weekend moves the Chargers to 10 – 13 overall and 3 – 5 in conference play. Hillsdale will finally play at home this weekend, when they host conference foe Northwood for doubleheaders on Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to the conference implications of the series, the two teams have developed a bit of a rivalry over the past couple of seasons, after the Timberwolves swept the Chargers in 2015, before Hillsdale returned the favor last season.
“It definitely plays into the excitement level,” Theisen said. “The mentality should be the same, but there should be some energy this weekend, that’s for sure.”
Northwood will bring a strong squad to Hillsdale, and Theisen said it will be a tough weekend, but that the team is embracing the challenge.
Assistant coach Gordie Theisen expressed the sentiment of a stable mentality and high levels of excitement succinctly.
“We just want to keep stepping on throats whenever we get the chance,” he said.