Baseball's Win Streak Snapped By Alma

by Alan Babbitt

The 23rd-ranked Hope College baseball team saw its 16-game winning streak come to an end Monday afternoon as the Flying Dutchmen dropped both halves of a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association doubleheader at Alma College, 9-7 and 11-9.

The two losses dropped Hope out of first place in the MIAA, as Adrian College swept a doubleheader from Albion on Monday to move into the top spot in the conference.

The Flying Dutchmen are now 15-3 in conference play and 25-3 overall heading into a MIAA doubleheader Tuesday at Trine (Indiana) University. First pitch is 1 p.m. Adrian (24-6) is 17-3 in MIAA Play.

Hope took a 1-0 lead in the opener when senior outfielder Nick Lepore of Clinton Township, Michigan (Warren De La Salle HS) singled and scored on a two-out double by sophomore third baseman Joey Merucci of Northville Township, Michigan (Detroit Catholic Central HS).

However, the Scots erupted for four runs in the bottom of the second and four more in the third, highlighted by a pair of home runs, to take an 8-1 lead.

Trailing 9-1 going into the top of the seventh, the Flying Dutchmen fought back valiantly, sending 11 batters to the plate in scoring six runs and putting the tying runs on base before the Scots got the final out.

Junior catcher Trace Slancik of Scotts, Michigan (Vicksburg HS) drove in the first run of the inning with a sacrifice fly. Two runs scored on a bases-loaded error by the Scots. Lepore doubled down the right-field line to make it 9-5, putting runners at second and third with one out.

After a groundout, infield RBI singles by Merucci and senior outfielder Jack Sojka of Glen Ellyn, Illinois (Glenbard West HS) cut the Alma lead to 9-7, putting runners at first and second. But Alma got a called third strike for the final out.

Hope outhit Alma 11-7 in the opener, including two hits each by Merucci, Lepore, Slancik and junior outfielder Mason Opple of Hudsonville, Michigan (Hudsonville HS). Merucci had two RBI.

Sophomore lefthander Max Gaishin of Stevensville, Michigan (Lakeshore HS) took suffered his first loss of the season against three wins, giving up eight runs and six hits in 2-2/3 innings. Six of the runs he allowed were unearned.

In game two, Hope jumped out to 6-2 lead with three runs in each of the first two innings.

Slancik started the offense in the first inning with a one-out single, took third on a double by sophomore outfielder Evan Maday of Grand Rapids, Michigan (East Kentwood HS) and scored on an Alma error. Maday scored on Opple's double to right, and sophomore shortstop Brant Kym of Libertyville, Illinois (Libertyville HS) followed with a single to score Opple.

After Alma scored twice in the bottom of the first, Hope's offense went right back to work. A walk and an error put two runners on with one out. Slancik singled to left center to score Merucci, then Maday tripled down the right field line to score senior second baseman Jordon Fairchild of Muskegon, Michigan (Oakridge HS) and Slancik.

The Flying Dutchmen added another run in the third on an Alma error, as Merucci came in to score. But then Alma shut down the Hope bats, limiting the Dutchmen to one hit between the third and seventh innings.

A five-run seventh inning gave the Scots an 11-7 lead, putting Hope again in the position of having to mount a late rally. Maday singled in a run in the eighth inning, but the Dutchmen left two runners on base.

Then Hope opened the ninth with a walk and a throwing error, putting runners at second and third with no outs. Sophomore pinch runner Evan Becker of Rochester, Michigan (Stoney Creek HS) scored on a wild pitch, but the second runner was cut down at the plate trying to score. The Scots then retired the next two batters to complete the sweep.

Maday went 3-for-3 in the nightcap with three RBIs, while Opple, this week's MIAA Position Player of the Week, went 3-for-5 and Slancik 2-for-5.

Junior Sam Balke of Newaygo, Michigan (Forest Hills Eastern HS) took the loss in relief, allowing three runs and two hits in 1-1/3 innings.

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