After a series win against the University of Findlay got the Chargers off to a strong start to the conference season, Hillsdale struggled in last weekend’s four-game road series against the Kentucky Wesleyan College Panthers. Hillsdale lost the first three games and won the fourth, moving them to a 4 – 4 record in the G-MAC.
Saturday, March 23 (Game 1): Kentucky Wesleyan 8, Hillsdale 6
Junior pitcher Andrew Verbrugge got the start on the mound for the Chargers in game one. Verbrugge showed flashes of brilliance but struggled to find consistent control of strike zone, allowing five walks and five runs in 5 ⅔ innings.
Senior third baseman Colin Boerst started off the scoring in the top of the first, singling up the middle to score senior second baseman Kevin Monson. Boerst had three hits and a walk in game one. After the weekend series, Boerst holds a .387 batting average with 10 runs batted in.
Hillsdale and Kentucky Wesleyan traded runs throughout the game, heading into the ninth tied at five. In the top of the ninth, junior first baseman Jacob DePillo hit a solo home run to left-center field, giving the Chargers a 6 – 5 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth. With sophomore pitcher David Toth on the mound, Hillsdale looked to hold on to a win in the first game of the series.
In the bottom of the ninth, however, things went awry. After back-to-back leadoff singles, Toth allowed a three-run home run and Kentucky Wesleyan took the first game of the series 8 – 6.
Saturday, March 23 (Game 2): Kentucky Wesleyan 10, Hillsdale 6
The Chargers looked to rebound in the second game with senior pitcher Jonathan Lapshan on the mound. The Panthers jumped out to an early lead with three runs in the bottom of the first inning to take a 3 – 0 lead.
The bottom of Hillsdale’s lineup answered with vengeance. In the top of the second, senior catcher Chris Ackerman drove in a run with a double to left, and then scored on a single by junior shortstop Jake Hoover.
In the top of the third, Ackerman came back up to the plate with the bases loaded and hit a home run to center field, scoring four and giving the Chargers a 6 – 3 lead. Ackerman finished game two with two hits and five RBIs.
After this outburst, however, the bats fell silent and Hillsdale struggled defensively. Kentucky Wesleyan scored three in the fourth, one in the fifth, and three in the sixth to take a 10 – 6 lead. After the Chargers failed to score in the top of the seventh, the Panthers took a 2 – 0 lead in the series.
Sunday, March 24 (Game 1): Kentucky Wesleyan 6, Hillsdale 3
Sophomore pitcher Austin Mora got the start in game three as Hillsdale looked to get back on track. After a solid first inning, Mora gave up a run in the second and a grand slam in the third as Kentucky Wesleyan took a 5 – 0 lead into the fourth inning.
The Chargers struggled to produce at the top of the lineup, with the top four hitters hitting a combined 1 – 13 in game three. Hillsdale’s only offensive production came from the bottom of the lineup in the top of the fourth inning, when junior left fielder Jake Rhodes hit a three-run homer to right-center, cutting the Panthers lead to two.
Aside from this offensive explosion, the Chargers failed to string hits together. After Kentucky Wesleyan stretched the lead to three with a run in the bottom of the sixth, Hillsdale failed to score, falling in the third game 6 – 3.
Sunday, March 24 (Game 2): Hillsdale 4, Kentucky Wesleyan 3 (10 innings)
After dropping the first three games of the series, the Chargers had one more opportunity to register a victory. Hillsdale turned to sophomore pitcher Sawyer Allen to start on the mound. After the Panthers scored a run in each of the first three innings, Allen dialed up the intensity, keeping Hillsdale in the game by holding Kentucky Wesleyan scoreless in the next four innings.
Boerst had another solid game at the plate, hitting a solo homer in the top of the second and driving in another in the top of the fourth as the Panthers held a 3 – 2 lead.
The Chargers had trouble breaking through until the top of the seventh inning when the bottom of the lineup came up big in the clutch once more. After sophomore outfielder Rob Zurawski doubled to left field, senior outfielder Christian Rodino drove him in on a triple to left field, tying the game at 3.
Allen came out after the seventh and Hillsdale turned to freshman reliever Caleb Biedenharn to keep the game tied. Biedenharn pitched masterfully, holding Kentucky Wesleyan scoreless in the eighth and ninth to force extra innings.
The Chargers didn’t waste any time in extra innings. Hoover walked, stole second, and then scored on a throwing error by the catcher on a strikeout by freshman Matt Granzotto. Hillsdale managed to get runners on the corners, but could only tally one run in the inning.
In the bottom of the tenth, Biedenharn put the game away by holding the Panthers scoreless, giving the Chargers a 4 – 3 victory.
Tuesday, March 26: Saginaw Valley 14, Hillsdale 8
The Chargers played in their home opener against the Saginaw Valley State University Cardinals, a regional opponent. The bats finally showed signs of life for Hillsdale after two runs in the first and two runs in the second. The Chargers jumped out a 4 – 2 lead going into the third inning.
That optimism faded quickly, however, as the Cardinals scored nine runs in the third inning, one in the fourth, and one in the fifth to take a 13 – 4 lead they would never relinquish.
The Chargers were able to stop the bleeding and generate some offense in the following innings. Hoover finished the day 3 – 5 with two runs, while senior catcher Steven Ring went 3 – 4 with an RBI and a run. Toth and freshman pitcher Will Gifford both threw scoreless innings, but the deficit was too great as Saginaw Valley came away with a 14 – 8 victory.
Looking forward, the Chargers will travel to Ohio this weekend to play a four-game series against the Tiffin University Dragons. The Dragons are 3 – 7 in the G-MAC.