NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – A key defensive plate in the ninth inning spurred top-seeded and No. 12-ranked D3Baseball.com and No. 15-ranked American Baseball Coaches Association Division III Manchester University past fourth-seeded Defiance College during the opening day of the 2013 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships Thursday, May 9.
Senior left fielder Cody Schell (Fort Wayne, Ind.), coming up throwing after Defiance sophomore shortstop Chris Donese singled with two outs, threw a perfect strike to freshman catcher Elliot Ford (Rome City, Ind.). Ford got in front of the plate just as DC freshman infielder Ryan Kohlhofer slid in, tagging him out on a bang-bang play to preserve the 7-6 win.
Schell's defensive heroics made a winner out of senior pitcher Justin Scott (Fort Wayne, Ind.) who increased his record to 8-1. Scott struck out three over six innings. Fellow senior Bryce Murphy (Ossian, Ind.) was touched for just one run in three innings while striking out two to pick up his ninth save. DC junior pitcher Darin Waterman wound up with seven strikeouts in seven and two-thirds innings.
The host Spartans, moving to 33-5-1, and the Yellowjackets (20-15) went back and forth early. Defiance posted single scores in the second and third innings, behind a pair of RBI hits from freshman catcher Gary Levengood, for a 2-0 edge before the home side erupted for six in the bottom of the third. Senior center fielder Austin Rieke (Fishers, Ind.) spotlighted the rally with a three-run double.
DC remained close, answering with one in the fourth and two in the sixth, due to back-to-back run-scoring hits from Waterman and junior first baseman Darin Masopust, to make the count 6-5. MU scored an important insurance run in the bottom half of the sixth, as senior first baseman Brad Murphy (Fort Wayne, Ind.) and senior shortstop Corey Marchant (Fort Wayne, Ind.) both slammed triples. From that point, neither side scored again until the final frame, as DC rallied with three hits to cut the deficit to 7-6, setting up the frenetic finish.
MU's offense had four players turn in multiple-hit contests. Sophomore designated hitter Kyle Norris (Indianapolis, Ind.) led the quartet with three safeties, while Rieke, Brad Murphy and Marchant each had two. Defiance's 17-hit attack was led by Levengood with four hits and two RBIs.
Third-seeded Franklin College joined the top-seeded Black and Gold in the winner's bracket, toppling second-seeded Anderson University 12-6. Junior outfielder Scott Windler drilled three hits and scored two runs, while senior first baseman Zach Oskowski added two hits and two runs scored to guide the Grizzlies (23-18).
After the two sides played to a 3-3 tie through five frames, Franklin blew the game open with five runs in the seventh and four more in the eighth, helped in part by four Raven errors. The late-innings rally helped FC make a winner out of junior pitcher Chris Hoppingarner who fired seven innings and struck out three.
Anderson, dropping to 21-20, received a big offensive effort from sophomore catcher Cole Hebeling. He went four-for-five with two runs scored and three RBIs.
The tournament is scheduled to resume at MU's Gratz Field Friday, May 10. Manchester and Franklin meet in the winner's bracket at 9:30 a.m., with an elimination game between Anderson and Defiance to follow at 12:30 p.m. The winner of the elimination contest takes on the loser of the winner's bracket clash at 4 p.m.