by Alan Babbitt
The Hope College baseball team closed out an unprecedented spring break trip with a two-hit shutout and a 8-0 victory against the University of Minnesota-Morris on Wednesday.
The Flying Dutchmen swept the non-league doubleheader in Auburndale, Florida and completed their time down south with an 8-0 record.
It is the first time Hope has gone unbeaten during spring break. The Flying Dutchmen's previous best spring break record was a 9-1 mark in 2002.
"I'm proud of our coaches and our kids, and the approach they took every single day," head coach Stu Fritz said. "My group of assistant coaches did an unbelievable job of getting these guys prepared. I give them a lot of the credit. We've got an incredible group of players. We tried to not get too high or too low - just take the next day as it came.
"We have a long way to go, but the foundation is there for what we're trying to do."
Starting pitcher Ted Eppinga of Saline, Michigan (Saline HS) and three relievers combined on a two-hit shutout. They followed the no-hitter thrown in Game 1 against Minnesota-Morris, an 8-2 victory.
Eppinga, pictured, allowed both hits in four innings of work. In his first start of the season, the right-hander struck out two and did not walk a batter.
Three Hope relievers then tossed scoreless innings: freshman Al Vasquez of Chelsea, Michigan (Chelsea), sophomore Ethan Willett of Orland Park, Illinois (Nazareth Academy) and freshman Dylan Berghorst of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville).
After eight games, the Flying Dutchmen have a team ERA of 2.85.
Hope grabbed a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning. Leftfielder Tucker Fritz of Holland, Michigan (West Ottawa) — one of nine Flying Dutchmen making their season debuts during the game - started the rally with a RBI single.
Rightfielder Micah Holzwarth of Libertyville, Illinois (Libertyville) drove in the second run with a bases-loaded walk. Centerfielder Evan Becker of Rochester Hills, Michigan (Stoney Creek) hit a two-run single to rightfield. Holzwarth then stole home.
Hope is batting .347 as a team after eight games. The Flying Dutchmen have outscored opponents by a 71-24 margin.
"Up and down the lineup," Stu Fritz said of his team's offense. "It was contagious."
The Flying Dutchmen now return home for the Saturday, March 23 home opener against Calvin College at Boeve Stadium. The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association doubleheader begins at 1 p.m.