by Eva Dean Folkert
Its first game was a slugfest and its second a pitcher's duel.
Either way, the Hope College baseball team stamped the day with two victories over Thomas College (Me.) on Tuesday, 12-5 and 3-0, in Auburndale, Florida.
With those wins, the Flying Dutchmen's record is 6-0.
Hope's red-hot, spring-break batting tear continued in its first game against the Thomas Terriers (0-4). In five of its first seven innings, the Flying Dutchmen led off with a hit. And of their 14 total hits, five were for extra bases, including solo homers slugged by senior second baseman Jordon Fairchild of Muskegon (Oakridge HS) to lead off the second inning and sophomore first baseman Ted Eppinga of Saline (Saline HS) to lead off the third.
Other extra base hits came from junior rightfielder Mason Opple and senior designated hitter Nick Lepore with doubles, and from senior leftfielder Jonathan Sojka with a triple. Additionally, Opple went 4-for-5, Sojka was 2-for-4, and sophomore centerfielder Evan Maday was perfect from the plate, going 3-for-3.
Hope again jumped out to early lead in the first three innings against the Terriers, 9-2, and was never really threatened the rest of the way. Starting pitcher Sean Hoey of Holland (West Ottawa HS) held Thomas to those two runs through three. He also struck out seven and gave up only three hits before he was relieved by junior Sam Balke of Newaygo (Forest Hills Eastern), who started the fourth inning.
Balke became the pitcher of record for the win, pitching the next three innings of five-hit, three-run baseball. He also struck out four. Freshman reliever Dane Martin of New Baltimore (L'Anse Creuse North HS) finished the game, striking out two of three batters he faced.
In the game two, pitchers Max Gaishin, pictured top, Shane Hykin and CJ Otteman combined for a shut-out of Thomas. With five innings on the mound, Gaishin gave up only two hits and three bases on balls but struck out six. He was credited with the win.
Hykin pitched the sixth inning and Otteman the seventh; both struck out one batter while allowing no hits or walks.
Flying Dutchmen batters could only muster three hits in their second nine innings, but they did draw seven walks. Hope's Eppinga scored in the second inning thanks to two walks, a throwing error, and a wild pitch.
Hope runs in the third and fourth innings were generated by small-ball tactics. In the third, a sacrifice fly by junior Drew Lunsford scored junior Trace Slancik who had singled himself and advanced on a Maday single and Opple fielder's choice. In the fourth, sophomore Joey Merucci, who had singled and advanced on a balk and a steal, came home on a Slancik sacrifice fly this time.
Coach Stu Fritz's Flying Dutchmen finish their Florida swing tomorrow, Wednesday, March 20, against Minnesota-Morris at 2:30 p.m.