NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – Manchester University received strong play from both ends of the spectrum Saturday, March 23, helping lead the Spartans to a 14-9, 4-2 sweep of Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference rival Franklin.
Playing on a sun-splashed Gratz Field in front of a strong home crowd, the No. 22/27 ranked Black and Gold rapped out 15 hits in game one and got a sparkling six-strikeout, seven-inning effort from senior Kyle Konarski (Elkhart, Ind.) in game two. The two wins moved the HCAC preseason favorites to 12-2-1 overall and 2-0 in league play while upping their current win string to four.
Konarski didn't allow the Grizzlies (6-7, 0-2 HCAC) to get on the scoreboard through the opening five frames. It was enough time for the MU offense to plate two scores in the second and one in the fourth to open a 3-0 lead that they didn't surrender. Senior shortstop Corey Marchant (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and sophomore outfielder Kyle Norris (Indianapolis, Ind.) each turned in two-hit games.
The opener featured plenty of offense for both sides. Marchant, as part of a six-hit day, and junior third baseman Jordan Nieman (Michigan City, Ind.) both ended with four hits, while sophomore second baseman Trevor Kimm (Anderson, Ind.) and senior outfielder Cody Schell (Granger, Ind.) both added two-hit efforts. Niemann, continuing to be solid in the runs-batted-in category, ended with four to push his season total to 33, while Schell also turned in four RBIs, and Marchant ended with three.
MU and Franklin took turns throwing haymakers at each other early. The home side batted around in the first to lead 5-2 after one, but Franklin rallied and forced a 7-7 tie after three. A three-run fifth inning outburst for the Spartans, highlighted by RBI hits from Kimm, Marchant, and Nieman, broke up the tie for good. The visitors snuck back to within 10-9 with two runs in the seventh before MU answered with a pair of scores in the seventh and eighth innings.
The series is scheduled to continue Sunday, March 24. Game time is 1 p.m. at Gratz Field.
NOTES: Senior pitcher Bryce Murphy (Ossian, Ind.) also played a key role in Saturday's outcomes. He registered his fourth and fifth saves of the season. His line included six innings of work, no walks allowed and five strikeouts.