by Eva Dean Folkert
Twice, host Kalamazoo College tried to mount final-inning, last-at-bat comebacks against the Hope College baseball team on Saturday. Twice, the Flying Dutchmen and junior relief pitcher CJ Otteman of Zeeland (Zeeland East HS), pictured, squashed the Hornets would-be dramatics.
Hope was doubly victorious in another doubleheader against the Hornets, 6-4 and 10-9, ending each game with Otteman on the mound and the Hornets runners in scoring position.
The Saturday wins added to Hope's six-victory total this week and its 10th in-a-row. The Flying Dutchmen swept Olivet on Monday and Kalamazoo on Friday. Hope is now 19-1 overall and 11-1 in the MIAA.
Also on Saturday, junior right fielder Mason Opple of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville) totaled five RBIs to become the ninth player in Hope baseball history to reach 100 career RBIs. He is tied for eighth place with Casey Glass (2000-03).
In Game One on the mound, sophomore starting pitcher Sean Hoey of Holland (West Ottawa HS) went six and a third innings, giving up five hits and two runs. When Otteman came into relieve Hoey in the bottom of the seventh with one out and two Hornet runners on. The reliever would give up two runs while facing four batters, but Hoey got the win, his third of the season, while Otteman registered the save.
In Game Two on the mound, sophomore starting pitcher Max Gaishin of Stevensville (Lakeshore HS) went five innings, giving up three hits and three runs. Freshmen Dylan Berghorst of Hudsonville (Hudsonville HS) and Dane Martin of New Baltimore (L'Anse Creuse North HS) took care of the middle relief for innings six through eight, allowing six hits and four runs combined. Otteman entered in the bottom of the ninth, Hope leading 10-7, and though he again dealt with two Hornets on base after giving up two runs, he forced Kalamazoo's last batter into a line-drive out to centerfield. Gaishin was credited with his third win; Otteman got his third save.
"CJ comes in in tough situations and finds a way to get it done," said head coach Stu Fritz. "Today got more dramatic than we had hoped, but credit K for creating offense and getting on base. CJ is a cool customer though. He wants the ball in those situations. Both games were his to win or lose. Like he has done repeatedly before, he found a way to get it done."
Opening with a 3-0 lead after the second inning in the first game, Hope added three more runs in the top of the sixth after two outs. Junior catcher Trace Slancik of Scotts (Vicksburg HS) hit a two-run RBI single up the middle to score Jack Sojka and Joey Merucci. Opple then singled to third base to score Jordon Fairchild.
Hope again jumped out to an early lead, 6-0, after two innings in the second game. Though they scattered eight hits to score six runs in their first game against Kalamazoo, Game Two was more typical of Flying Dutchmen bats of late. Hope totaled 13 hits to score its 10 runs as eight different Flying Dutchmen collected at least one hit. Opple lead the RBI leaderboard with four while Slancik had two.
"Top to bottom, our lineup is so solid right now," Fritz said. "Every game a different guy picks us up. This is a selfless group. I just love watching them compete."
The Flying Dutchmen get a little rest now before taking to the road again to play Alma College next Thursday, April 11. The first game of the doubleheader starts at 2 p.m.