Panthers set to host Eureka and Thomas More, travel to Wabash this week

Grant Larimore

HANOVER, Ind. – After inclement weather washed out four scheduled games last week, the Hanover College baseball team will return to action this week with home games against Eureka (Ill.) and Thomas More (Ky.) before traveling for a weekend series at Wabash (Ind.).

FLORIDA TRIP REVIEW: The Panthers returned home from a six-game Florida trip last week with a 4-2 record, including wins in four of their final five outings. Hanover headed home with a winning record after its annual season-opening trip for the fifth time since 2010, with the last occurrence coming in 2017 (4-1). The Florida trip concluded with a 2-0 win over Cabrini (Pa.), avenging one of HC's two losses and giving the program just its third shutout in the past five years. Hanover outscored its opponents 34-27, batting .271 as a team and posting a combined 3.50 earned run average, which leads the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference and ranks among the top 50 marks in Division III.

INFIELD LEADING EARLY OFFENSE: Senior Ty Stover (Galveston, Ind.) and junior Spencer Coop (Lexington, Ky.) have played a large role in the Panthers' early success at the plate, as Hanover is averaging close to six runs per contest. Stover leads the team with a .348 average, and two of his eight hits have resulted in extra bases. The senior enters this weekend riding a five-game hitting streak.

Coop follows Stover at a .346 batting average, as he and senior Josh Meszaros (Loveland, Ohio) are tied for the team- and conference-high in RBI with eight each. The junior also has three stolen bases thus far.

NEW ROLES FINDING SUCCESS: Sophomore Zeke Porta (Louisville, Ky.) and freshman Andrew Littlefield (Louisville, Ky.) are both seeing extended action for the first time in their collegiate careers and have matching .316 averages at the plate. Both players have a pair of doubles and have combined for nine runs scored through six games. Porta (2) and Littlefield (3) each have a multi-hit game against Northern Vermont-Lyndon as well.

PANTHER PITCHING: Behind the HCAC's top ERA are four Panther pitchers that have allowed one or fewer runs in six-plus innings of work this season. Senior David Herrmann (Fishers, Ind.) and junior Zach Chapman (Loveland, Ohio) each allowed no runs in their first starts of the season, going eight and six innings, respectively. Herrmann conceded four hits, while striking out seven batters in a no decision against MSOE. Chapman started the Panthers' shutout win as he worked around three hits and five walks to blank his only opponent of 2019.

Sophomores George Dant (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Grant Larimore (LaGrange, Ky.) have also found success early on. Dant is tied for the conference high and ranks 10th in Division III with two saves. The sophomore has allowed six hits and no runs over three appearances and six innings of action. Larimore made his first start of 2019 during the Florida trip as well, going six innings, allowing three hits and one run.

SCOUTING EUREKA: The Red Devils enter Tuesday's contest at K.T. Young Ballpark with a 2-0 record after earning a pair of 9-0 wins over Northland (Wis.) back on Friday, March 8. Eureka is coming off a 14-17-1 season in 2018, which marked the first time since 2012 the program had double-digit victories. All-conference outfielder Sean Green is back for the Red Devlis this spring, after batting .384 with an on-base percentage near .500 during his first season at Eureka in 2018. Green added 17 RBI, as well as a team-high 31 runs scored and 17 stolen bases last season. 

Tuesday's contest will mark the first meeting between the two sides. 

SCOUTING THOMAS MORE: The Saints are off to a 2-6 start this season, with both wins coming against DePauw (Ind.) during a season-opening trip to Alabama. Thomas More produced a 24-20 overall record last year, which marked the program's 21st consecutive winning season and the sixth NCAA Division III National Tournament appearance in the past nine years. The Saints brought back six of their 10 all-conference award winners from 2018 including first teamers Sam Hauer and Sean Lawrence. Hauer batted .380 last spring while producing a team-best 45 RBI, as well as six home runs. Lawrence led the team with a .399 average and eight home runs, and went 5-1 on the mound with a 3.09 earned run average. 

Hanover and Thomas More have met 15 times since their first contest in 2003, with the Saints holding a 12-2-1 edge in the all-time series. The Panthers have dropped three straight in the series, including both sets of a doubleheader last season. The last HC win came in 2012, a 5-4, 11-inning home triumph.

SCOUTING WABASH: Wabash will host the Panthers this weekend after a 3-6 start to its campaign. The Little Giants are coming off a 2018 season that saw the program post a single-season record for wins after going 32-17 en route to an NCAA Tournament Regional Tournament championship appearance. Wabash, who is 54-33 over the past two years, have the luxury of six returning all-conference players from last season's record-setting squad. Sean Roginski, a senior infielder, was a second-team selection last season after batting .342 with a team-high 52 runs scored and 12 stolen bases. 

The two sides have met 31 times in the past, with Wabash owning a 22-9 edge in the all-time series. The Panthers and Little Giants have played five games the last two seasons, with Wabash winning four games. Hanover's lone win in the recent stretch was a 6-5, extra-inning victory on the road in 2017. 

UP NEXT: The Blue and Red will welcome Eureka (Ill.) for a 3:30 p.m. start next Tuesday, March 12. Hanover then travels to face Thomas More (Ky.) Wednesday, March 13, before going to Wabash (Ind.) for a three-game series Saturday and Sunday, March 16 and 17.

Contact: Tyler Jester