In a heavyweight battle between the two top baseball team’s in the G‑MAC, the Hillsdale Chargers (18 – 23, 15 – 6 G‑MAC) and the nationally ranked Ohio Dominican Panthers (27 – 10, 14 – 5 G‑MAC) split four games. The Chargers, however, took two of the three games which count toward conference standings.
“It was a great weekend,” head coach Eric Theisen said. “Not only because we took two from those guys and stayed in the hunt for first place, but, heck, I wore short sleeves for the first time this year.”
With the weekend behind the two teams, the Chargers sit one win above the Panthers in the win column, but one game below them in the loss column, giving the Panthers a slight edge in win percentage. For Theisen, the weekend served as a preview of a potential postseason showdown.
“It’s always fun playing them,” Theisen said. “They’re usually pretty good and pretty competitive and they get a good fan base. It’s always fun to go there and play them and it’ll be an exciting matchup if and when we see them in the postseason.”
The Chargers pushed three runs across in the very first half inning of the series, with RBIs from juniors Steven Ring and Dylan Lottinville and senior Alex Walts. The Panthers responded with two in the bottom, but the Chargers scored five more between the third and sixth innings, while Ohio Dominican only managed one.
The Panthers mounted a rally late in the game, scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth. Freshman David Toth, however, came in to record the final out of the game, sealing the game at 8 – 7 for the Chargers.
Ring and Walts each knocked in another run in the game, while senior Colin Hites and juniors Kevin Monson and Michael Mitchell all tallied an RBI of their own.
Senior Will Kruse tossed 8.1 innings in the game, which was sufficient to break the Hillsdale career innings pitched record, as he now has 276.1 innings under his belt as a Charger.
“He got his first start our third weekend of the year his freshman year, and he didn’t come out of the starting rotation after that,” Theisen said. “What that speaks on is his efficiency. A starter doesn’t necessarily get any more starts then another throughout the years. It’s about how many innings per start they’re getting. What it says is that he’s been efficient and give us a lot of innings and a lot of quality starts.”
Ohio Dominican opened the scoring in game two with two runs in the bottom of the first inning, but senior Phil Carey took the reins after that, finishing the game having tossed 6.1 innings, allowing only three earned runs.
The Chargers trailed until the top of the fourth, when Walts and sophomore Dante Toppi each hit home runs to give the Chargers a 3 – 2 lead. RBIs from Ring and Lottinville in the fifth pushed it to 5 – 2, and sophomore Jake Hoover’s first career home run in the seventh opened the lead to 6 – 2.
After five clean innings, a walk and a double ended Carey’s fantastic outing, and Toth took the mound, shutting down the Panthers to record his second save of the day — a feat for which Theisen commended him.
For Carey, the outing was a great opportunity to rebound from his shortest outing of the season the previous week.
“My gameplan every week is just to throw strikes and make them swing at it and get themselves out,” he said. “I just have to keep in the zone and low and get my guys ground balls and fly balls, and the rest works itself out.”
On Sunday, both teams went scoreless over the first five innings, as sophomore Andrew Verbrugge continued his string of impressive outings. Each team then got one run in the fifth, with the Hillsdale run coming on an RBI single from senior Ryan O’Hearn.
The game was knotted until the eighth, when Lottinville knocked in Hoover on a double. The Hillsdale lead, however, was only a flash, as the Panthers were able to turn only one hit into the four runs in the bottom half of the inning, taking a 5 – 2 lead.
Hillsdale didn’t go softly into the night, however. An O’Hearn walk, a Hites single, and a Ring double allowed the Chargers to pull the game to 5 – 4, but the rally stopped there, as the Panthers grabbed the last of the G‑MAC contests.
Verbrugge went 7.1 innings in the game, striking out nine, while allowing four runs, although only one was earned.
For the Chargers, this type of game provides an extra shot of adrenaline.
“We all love playing in tight games,” Monson said. “We know that we will be playing in tight games the rest of the regular season and then the conference tournament. Even when we’re down late, we believe we can come back at any time.”
There was still one more game, however, between the two teams, although it didn’t count toward conference standings.
Ohio Dominican scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning and one in the bottom of the third, which stood as the only runs scored in the game, as the Chargers were never able to mount much of an offensive rally.
Sophomore Kolton Rominski had a solid outing, throwing five innings while allowing three runs — two earned.
On Tuesday, the Chargers dropped a non-conference game to the Wayne State Warriors (22 – 16, 10 – 9 GLIAC), 10 – 3. Ring had two RBIs in the effort for the Chargers.
Despite the non-conference losses, assistant coach Jack Murphy said he’s happy with what he saw from his team this weekend.
“It was just nice to see us pitch, hit, and play defense all in the same game,” he said. “When we can do that, we’ll be at the top of the league.”
The Chargers will head to Siena Heights (18 – 28, 9 – 15 WHAC) on Thursday before hosting the Lake Erie Storm (13 – 20‑1, 11 – 20 G‑MAC) for a three-game G‑MAC set this weekend on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday, the Chargers will also celebrate their senior day.