Two former high school teammates gave the Hope College baseball team the pitching it needed to remain in the hunt for a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament championship.
Starter Matt VanDyken and reliever CJ Otteman — both sophomores and Zeeland East High School products — helped the Flying Dutchmen beat Alma College 5-3 on Thursday at Adrian College and advance to today's title round.
Hope (18-23 overall) will play Adrian at noon today. If the Flying Dutchmen win that game, they will force a second game that will determine who receives the MIAA's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
"It will be tough against a good Adrian team," Hope coach Stu Fritz said. "I'm glad we get the opportunity to do it."
The Flying Dutchmen won twice on Friday — beating Calvin 5-4 at Adrian in the first elimination game of the day. Hope turned right around and played Alma, which lost to Adrian 5-4 in the morning.
The left-handed VanDyken, pictured at right, recorded his longest outing of the season against the Scots, pitching into the ninth before Otteman relieved him with one out and runners on second and third.
The right-handed Otteman, pictured at left, yielded an RBI single to Matt Minaudo but struck out the next batter. After the strikeout, catcher Trace Slancik of Scotts, Michigan (Vicksburg) threw out Minaudo trying to steal for a game-ending double play.
Otteman recorded his second save of the day and his sixth of the season. He tied Jordan Carrigan (2012) for third-most in a single-season by a Flying Dutchmen pitcher. The school record of eight belongs to Matt Glowacki (2016).
Fritz praised both VanDyken and Otteman.
"I tip my cap to Matt. This season has not gone how he wanted it to go," Fritz said. "We needed him today, and he absolutely just had a gutsy performance. He sent him back out for the ninth because it was his to win. He ran out of gas, but his good friend, CJ, closed it out.
"CJ's had 22 appearances this season. The kid goes out there and does it every single time. He's a cool customer. Our kids have a ton of confidence behind him."
Hope never trailed after taking a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Opple, who went 4-for-4 against Alma, later scored on a Slancik sacrifice fly.
Fairchild scored in the fifth on a fielder's choice off the bat of third baseman Danny Carrasco of Grandville, Michigan (Calvin Christian).
The Flying Dutchmen tacked on two more runs in the sixth for a 5-1 lead on RBI singles from leftfielder Jonathan Sojka of Glen Ellyn, Illinois (Glenbard West) and second baseman Brant Kym of Libertyville, Illinois (Libertyville).
VanDyken (3-4) scattered 13 hits and one walk over 8 ⅓ innings. He struck out six.