NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – Manchester University scored four runs over the fourth and fifth innings to break up a scoreless tie Sunday, March 24, and send itself to a 4-1 win over Franklin College.
The fifth straight win for the No. 22-ranked D3Baseball.com and No. 27-ranked Division III American Baseball Coaches Association squad wrapped up a key early-season Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference series sweep. The Spartans (13-2-1, 3-0 HCAC) and Grizzlies (6-8, 0-3) entered the season as the top two picks on the conference's preseason coaches' poll.
The two sides began the final game of the set locked in a pitcher's duel. MU starter Justin Scott and Franklin starter Hayden Cleveland kept their opponents off home plate over the first three and a half frames. However, the home side broke through against Cleveland in the fourth.
After senior outfielder Cody Schell (LaGrange, Ind.) reached on an infield single and stole second to open the frame, freshman infielder Sean Knepper (Bremen, Ind.) sent a single between short and third that plated Schell after a close play at home plate. Knepper added another run by scoring on a wild pitch, while senior first baseman Brad Murphy (Fort Wayne, Ind.) drove in a run to complete the inning. The Black and Gold touched the Grizzlies' staff for another run in the fifth, as Schell drove in junior third baseman Jordan Nieman (Michigan City, Ind.) for a 4-0 advantage.
Scott, a Fort Wayne native, took a shutout bid into the seventh before Franklin broke it up behind back-to-back two-out hits. He concluded his complete-game victory with just one walk issued and six strikeouts to even his season record at 1-1.
The Spartans look to continue their strong league start Friday and Saturday, March 29 and 30, when they travel to Lexington, Ky., to face Transylvania University. Game times are 4 p.m. Friday and 12 p.m. Saturday at Marquard Field on TU's campus.
NOTES: Nieman, Schell and sophomore right fielder Kyle Norris (Indianapolis, Ind.) all registered multiple-hit games. Norris topped the trio with three safeties.