by Eva Dean Folkert
Ted Eppinga was feeling it midway through the Flying Dutchmen's game against Aquinas College on Tuesday. With the score tied, 3-3, the sophomore first baseman from Saline (Saline HS) led off the top of the fourth inning with a solo homerun to left field. Nine Hope batters and five Hope runs later, Eppinga was at the plate again. And again, he drove another homer to left field, this time accounting for three more Hope runs.
When the fourth inning was all said and done, Eppinga, pictured, and the Flying Dutchmen had scored a total of eight times. Though they would not score again in the game, that inning's production turned out to be more than enough for the Hope baseball team to beat the Saints in a scheduled nine-inning contest, 11-6, in Grand Rapids.
The win is Coach Stu Fritz's squad's 14th in a row. Hope, ranked 23rd in the Division III Collegiate Baseball poll, is now 23-1.
Twenty-two Hope players saw action in the non-league game. The Flying Dutchmen collected 10 hits on their 11 runs. Junior Mason Opple of Hudsonville (Hudsonville HS), senior Bradley Kotenko of Macomb (Lutheran North) and Eppinga had two hits apiece. Eppinga led Hope with five RBIs.
Hope also took advantage of Aquinas on the base paths. The Flying Dutchmen swiped eight bases. Perhaps the most exciting of those came when senior leftfielder Jack Sojka of Glen Ellyn, Illinois (Glenbard West) stole home in that dominating fourth inning.
As of April 15, Hope was 5th in Division III in stolen bases per game with 3.43 and 14th with 79 for this season. Individually, Sojka is tied for 24th with 20 stolen bases. He has not been caught stealing base yet.
Taking the win on the mound was freshman Dylan Berghorst (3-0) of Hudsonville (Hudsonville HS). He went three and two-thirds innings and gave up only one hit, one walk and struck out one. Three other Hope pitchers contributed: freshman Keaton Hamilton of Grandville (Wyoming HS) got the start and went two and a third innings; sophomore Ethan Willett of Orland Park, Illinois (Nazareth Academy) pitched the seventh inning; and, Eppinga took the mound for innings eight and nine.
The Flying Dutchmen return to league play on Friday, April 19 when they host Trine University for a doubleheader at Boeve Stadium. The first game starts at 2 p.m.