Baseball drops two to defending HCAC champions

Tyler Fitch

HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover College baseball team jumped out to early leads against Franklin Tuesday afternoon before surrendering late rallies to the defending Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference champions in 10-9 and 9-5 losses.

The Panthers, who were opening HCAC play Tuesday, fall to 8-9 overall and 0-2 in the league. Franklin improves to 12-8 overall and 2-2 in HCAC action. Senior Tyler Fitch (Crestwood, Ky.) led the Panther offense Tuesday, going 4-for-7 with six runs driven in. Working behind the plate, Fitch also picked off a runner at first and caught another Grizzly stealing during the opener.

GAME ONE RECAP (L, 10-9)

The opener saw the Panthers jump out to an early 6-1 lead through two innings. Hanover scored three runs in each of the first two frames, all of which came with two outs.

Fitch, who went 3-for-4 in Game One, brought in three runs in the first with a bases-clearing double to right field. Senior Chase Sizemore (Fishers, Ind.) added a three-run blast in the second to give HC the five-run lead with seven innings left to play.

Senior David Herrmann (Fishers, Ind.) worked around three singles to lead off the first, allowing just one run in the inning. Herrmann then kept one of the nation's top offenses in 2018 silent until the fifth frame.

After the Grizzlies tacked on one run in the fifth, Fitch drove in another run with a single and freshman Andrew Littlefield (Louisville, Ky.) added another score on his sac fly to right. The Blue and Red led 8-2 through five complete.

Franklin though, tagged HC for six runs on five hits in the sixth, tying the game at eight-all.

The stalemate continued until the bottom of the eighth, when freshman Kevin Van Valkenburg's (Georgetown, Ky.) sac fly brought home Fitch, who led off the frame with a double down the left field line. Junior Zach Chapman (Loveland, Ohio) did not allow a hit in a scoreless 2.2 innings of work, assisting in HC's lead heading into the ninth.

After a strikeout led off the ninth, the Grizzlies had a single, followed by a home run to take a 10-9 advantage. The Panthers would be retired in order in the ninth for their sixth one-run loss of the season.

GAME TWO RECAP (L, 9-5)

Hanover's offense got off to another fast start in the night cap, scoring three runs once more in the bottom of the first. Junior Spencer Coop (Lexington, Ky.) and sophomore Grant Larimore (LaGrange, Ky.) singled to lead off the first and senior Ty Stover (Galveston, Ind.) drove both in with a base hit of his own. Fitch added a sac fly later in the frame for HC's third run.

Senior Garett Zorb (Medina, Ohio) started on the mound for the Blue and Red, retiring six of the first seven batters he faced. The lone blemish was a home run. Franklin added another run in the fourth, but HC still led 3-2. Zorb struck out seven over six innings of work.

The Grizzlies added another long ball in the sixth, this time a two-run shot to take a 4-3 advantage. Franklin scored in each of the final four innings to help secure the win.

Fitch and Littlefield each drove in a run in the eighth off a single and groundout, respectively, closing the Panther deficit to 7-5. However, only Larimore would reach in the ninth on a double down the left field line. A home run and RBI triple by FC in the top of the ninth resulted in the 9-5 final score.

UP NEXT: The Panthers will look to bounce back quickly with a non-conference contest against Centre (Ky.). Action is set to begin at 4 p.m., Wednesday, April 3, at Hanover's K.T. Young Ballpark.

Contact: Tyler Jester

jestert@hanover.edu