Baseball's Hot Bats Beat Lawrence Twice, Joey Merucci's Walk-Off Single Wins the Second

by Eva Dean Folkert

Joey Merucci posing for a headshot Fifteen was the Hope College baseball team's magic number on Saturday.

The Flying Dutchman scattered 15 hits in each of their two games in Winter Haven, Florida, beating Lawrence College (Wisconsin) twice, 14-7 and 9-8.

And the 30th hit of the day came in a dramatic way off the bat of Joey Merucci in the second game.

After the Flying Dutchmen and the Viking traded leads for much of the game, the score was tied 8-8 entering ninth inning. Junior CJ Otteman of Zeeland (Zeeland East HS) dispatched three straight batters in top of the ninth to allow for a potential Flying Dutchman rally in the bottom half of the inning.

One out and five Hope batters later, Merucci stepped to the plate and drove a walk-off single to right center, scoring junior Mason Opple who had gotten on first thanks to a Viking error, advanced to second due to a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Brant Kym, and reached third on another Lawrence error.

The hit was Merucci's third of the game and sixth in the doubleheader. The sophomore third baseman from Northville Township (Catholic Central HS) went six-for-seven for the day with two doubles and four RBIs.

Also slugging three hits in the second game were senior leftfielder Jonathan Sojka of Glen Elyn, Illinois (Glenbard West HS) who hit a single, double and triple, and junior catcher Trace Slancik of Scotts (Vickburg HS) with three singles. Sophomore centerfielder Evan Maday of Grand Rapids (East Kentwood HS) led the Flying Dutchman with three RBIs.

Otteman, who pitched the last three innings of the nightcap, got the win.

In Hope's first game against Lawrence, the Flying Dutchmen never trailed, opening the contest with a five-run first inning and adding another five runs in the top of the fourth at which point they were up, 12-2.

Nine different Hope players had at least one hit in the game. Slancik, Merucci and senior second baseman Jordon Fairchild of Muskegon (Oakridge HS) knocked in three RBIs each.

Besides having hot bats in the game, Hope was aggressive on the base paths too, successfully stealing 11 times in the first contest, as Opple led the base-thievery with three.

On the mound, freshman starter Dylan Berghorst of Hudsonville (Hudsonville HS) was credited with the win, while junior Sam Balke of Newago (Forest Hills Eastern) earned the save. 

Hope, now 3-0, has a day of rest tomorrow and returns to action on Monday, March 18 in Kissimmee, Florida versus McDaniel College (Maryland) at 9:15 a.m.

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