The Hillsdale College baseball team topped conference-leading Kentucky Wesleyan University on Saturday, April 17 to start the roadgame series. This was the first loss of the Panthers’ season so far. The Chargers proceeded to lose the next three games, however, finishing the weekend 1 – 3.
Saturday, April 17 (Game 1): Hillsdale, 7, Kentucky Wesleyan, 6
Senior David Toth started on the mound for the Chargers. He held the Panthers scoreless until the bottom of the fourth, facing 28 batters and striking out seven to earn the win.
“It was great to get it in game one,” head coach Eric Theisen said. “Game one is the tiebreaker between teams so we were hoping to come away with at least one more to have that tiebreaker, but boy, they were a tough team.”
The Chargers managed two runs before the Panthers got on the board. In the top of the second, freshman shortstop Aiden Brewer doubled and then scored on an error. Then, in the top of the fourth, sophomore right fielder Cooper Peterson doubled to center field and was later scored by freshman center fielder Danny Passinault who hit a single.
The Panthers rallied in the bottom of the fifth to score three runs, but the Chargers answered with five more runs in the next two innings. Peterson hit a three-RBI homer in the bottom of the seventh to put the Chargers up 7 – 3.
By the bottom of the seventh, when the Panthers scored three more, the Chargers had a large enough lead to hold on for the remainder of the game. Freshman Logan Simon came in to pitch in the seventh to earn the save, giving up one hit.
“Toth was great on the mound as he has been all year, and Simon did a great job of getting the save,” Theisen said. “He’s been reliable and that’s why we went to him.”
Saturday, April 17 (Game 2): Hillsdale, 3, Kentucky Wesleyan, 5
Kentucky Wesleyan bounced back for game two, starting with a 3 – 0 lead by the bottom of the second.
The Chargers answered in the third with a series of singles to load the bases. Freshman catcher Tyler Harris then scored on a passed ball to make the score 1 – 3.
The Panthers had a single RBI in each of the fourth and sixth innings, extending their lead 5 – 1. Senior designated hitter Rob Zurawski offered a glimmer of hope with a two-run homer in the seventh, but it still wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit.
Junior Sawyer Allen pitched five innings to take the loss, facing 28 batters, striking out two.
Sunday, April 18 (Game 3): Hillsdale, 5, Kentucky Wesleyan, 7
Another strong start for the Panthers plagued the Chargers. Down 5 – 0 by the top of the third, Passinault walked and later scored when sophomore third baseman Cody Kanclerz grounded out.
Passinaul scored again in the top of the fifth with a solo home run to narrow the gap, 2 – 5. Later in the inning, Kaclerz was hit by a pitch, Zurawski singled, and freshman first baseman Jeff Landis walked to load the bases. Brewer doubled down the left field line for two RBI.
Trailing by one now, the Hillsdale lineup sparked hope for the rest of the game. But the Panthers came back with a two-run inning in the bottom of the fifth, making the score 4 – 7.
Kanclerz was up to bat with a runner on second, nailing a double to right center to score Harris. With the score now 5 – 7, the Chargers had one last inning for a comeback, but neither team scored the remainder of the game.
Sunday, April 18 (Game 4): Hillsdale, 2, Kentucky Wesleyan, 6
It was the Chargers turn to score first in game four. Kanclerz started the game off hit by a pitch and Zurawski and Landis both walked. Freshman second baseman Nick Stepke hit a single with bases loaded to take the early lead, 1 – 0.
The Panthers tied the score up at 1 – 1 by the bottom of the third. In the top of the fourth, Passinaul made it to first on a fielder’s choice, which scored Stepke who was hit by a pitch earlier in the lineup.
Despite the 2 – 1 lead, a five-run inning for the Panthers in the bottom of the fifth secured the win for Kentucky Wesleyan.
Senior pitcher Andrew Verbrugge faced 26 batters in five innings, striking out three of them.
“They were very close games. It just comes down to the pitching,” Verbrugge said. “We’ve been kidna struggling here and there with pitching this year. Just getting ahead of batters is the most important thing. Getting that first strike across the plate, that’s been our philosophy lately. Throw strike one, throw strike two, and then mess around from there and try to get the batter out.”
The Chargers sit in the No. 6 spot in the conference rankings with a 14 – 14 overall record (10 – 10 G‑MAC). They will travel to Tiffin University to take on the Dragons on Saturday, April 24. Tiffin holds a 12 – 8 conference record and is currently No. 4.
“Tiffin will be good. They’ve been very good this year and so were expecting tough matchups on the mound and were expecting to compete with them,” Theisen said. “They’re the reigning G‑MAC champs. They took that title away from us a few years ago and we want to get that back.”