A 1 – 2 weekend against the Findlay Oilers (18 – 10, 11 – 5 G-MAC) left the Hillsdale College baseball team (16 – 20, 13 – 5 G-MAC) just behind the Ohio Dominican Panthers (25 – 8, 13 – 5 G-MAC) for first place in the G-MAC.
“It wasn’t exactly the weekend we wanted, but there are no perfect seasons in baseball,” senior Ryan O’Hearn said. “You just have to learn from your mistakes and focus on the next one…We’re not down in the dumps at all, because we know there’re a lot of really important games ahead of us.”
Game one at Simpson Field on Thursday was a wild affair, with a combined 21 runs coming on a total of 32 hits and eight errors to bring the game to its 11 – 10 Findlay over Hillsdale conclusion.
After two unearned Findlay runs in the top of the first, the Chargers took their lone lead of the game on a set of RBI knocks from sophomore Jake Hoover, junior Dylan Lottinville, and senior Alex Walts.
The lead was short-lived, as the Oilers scored two in the second and three in the fourth to open up a lead. A Charger run in the bottom half of the fourth and three more in the sixth tied the game 7 – 7, but four runs for Findlay over the seventh and eighth innings pushed the game to 11 – 7.
The Chargers rallied in the bottom of the ninth to bring the game to 11 – 10, but they left the bases loaded to drop the first game of the weekend.
“It’s just a few small breaks each game,” head coach Eric Theisen said. “We’re not playing bad baseball, it’s just a couple of balls falling for hits here or there, a couple of hits with runners in scoring position, or a big strikeout in a situation where we need to get out of an inning.”
Six different Chargers drove in a run in the game, including three for Hoover, two for Walts and O’Hearn, and a solo home run from freshman James Krick.
Senior Will Kruse gave up seven runs in his five innings, but only three were earned.
The front end on Friday belonged to the Oilers from the first inning, when a two-out rally culminated in a grand slam. They added two more on a two-run shot in the second.
Hillsdale pushed its lone run across the plate in the bottom of the second when O’Hearn singled in junior Kevin Monson.
Theisen mentioned Monson’s ability to step in at second base and reach base while the Chargers fight through some injuries.
The Oilers would add two more runs in the seventh, eventually winning the game 8 – 1, despite only out-hitting the Chargers 10 – 8.
Just as he did last weekend, sophomore Andrew Verbrugge took the mound for game three looking to stave off a sweep. Again, he delivered.
Verbrugge, a ground ball pitcher, hurled all nine innings, allowing only one unearned run on three hits and striking out five.
O’Hearn said the team plays with confidence behind Verbrugge, and added that watching him work from center field provides some entertainment.
“It’s great playing behind him. I know I’m only going to get maybe one ball a game,” he said. “In center, you see him throwing four different pitches from three different arm angles, and the ball moves and he makes the batters look silly.”
Theisen commended Verbrugge on his efficiency and reliability, as the complete game was his fourth in a row, part of a streak which includes allowing only eight hits over his last 28 innings worked.
The G-MAC office rewarded Verbrugge for those feats, awarding him G-MAC North Division Pitcher of the Week on Monday. It was the first time Verbrugge won the award.
“It feels great to get the award and be recognized for the hard work put in by not only myself, but by my teammates. They are a huge part of the reason that I received the award, since they’re always there to back me up in the field,” Verbrugge said in an email. “After receiving this, I, and the team, need to keep doing our best competing and getting our worship on so good results like this will keep coming.”
The Charger offense supplied Verbrugge with plenty of run support in the affair. After junior Colin Hites scored on a passed ball in the first, Lottinville sent a solo home run onto the intramural fields in the second. The Chargers added on four more runs, bringing the game to its 6 – 1 final.
“We have a lot of confidence in this team, because we know we’re good and can produce from every spot in the lineup,” O’Hearn said. “Hitting is contagious, so we know once we start hitting the ball around early in the game it’s going to be a good game for us.”
After opening the G-MAC 11 – 1 against the South Division, Hillsdale is now 2 – 4 against North Division opponents. Theisen said this is the type of play his team looks forward to.
“The teams that we’ve played the last two weekends are pretty good teams,” Theisen said. “We’re starting to get into that postseason type of play here in the last few weeks of the season.”
Hillsdale enters a huge weekend of play, as they head to Columbus, Ohio, to take on the Ohio Dominican Panthers — ranked 15th nationally — in a four-game set over Friday and Saturday.
“Going into these last few weeks we are just trying to play our best baseball going into the conference tournament,” Theisen said. “We want to try and get that number one seed, we have our eyes set on that, so this weekend will be a big weekend. ODU is the only team in the conference that is nationally ranked and we’ve got them at their place… and I’m willing to bet they’re going to be some tight games.”