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April 2, 2013

Spartans gain key HCAC sweep

NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – Manchester University and Anderson University gave fans at Spartan Field a pair of nip-and-tuck Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference battles Tuesday, April 2.

The host Spartans (12-6 overall, 4-0 HCAC), increasing their current win streak to seven games, remained unbeaten in league play with 5-4 and 6-5 victories over the preseason conference favorite Ravens (8-8, 1-3 HCAC). MU used the long ball and a strong eight-inning pitching effort from sophomore Maureen Lund (Huntington, Ind.) to claim the opener and opened a five-run cushion in the nightcap before Anderson staged a furious late-innings comeback.

Lund, earning her seventh win of the season, struck out five and walked one while working around 11 AU hits. The Black and Gold offense got the ball rolling early, taking advantage of an error and a two-run home run off the bat of senior left fielder Kayla Yates (Delphi, Ind.) in the first. After the visitors used a three-run round tripper to gain their first lead in the top of the second, Manchester University answered in the home half of the third. Freshman designated player Kalie Niezgodski (South Bend, Ind.) hammered a pitch over the right field fence for a two-run blast to put the home side up 4-3. AU scored a single run in the fourth for a 4-4 tie.

Both sides had chances in regulation to break the knot. Anderson left five on base over the final three frames, while MU left three. With the international rule in place, the Ravens moved their runner to third with one out but couldn't convert, while the Spartans quickly put two on after a single and then plated the winning run on an infield error.

The hosts jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two in game two behind four hits and a pair of AU errors. The lead extended to 6-1 with two more scores in the fourth with two more safeties and an error helping the inning along. Anderson nearly came all the way back, though. A four-run sixth, fueled by five walks and a single made it 6-5, and a one-out triple down the right field line in the seventh had the tying run 60 feet away. However, junior relief pitcher Brittney Wetzel (Hamilton, Ind.) got a strikeout and pop up to close the game out with the save after sophomore starter Ashlea Nash (Gas City, Ind.) struck out three over six innings to get her fifth win.

Junior outfielder Katelyn Schmidt (Fort Wayne, Ind.) topped the offense in the twinbill with four hits and two stolen bases. Junior third baseman Kylie Planck (Valparaiso, Ind.) scored a team-best three runs, while Niezgodski turned in a team-high three RBIs.

Manchester University resumes its busy week with a doubleheader at Franklin College Saturday, April 6. First pitch is 1 p.m. at FC Field.

NOTES: The two Spartan wins stopped a four-game AU win streak in the series. ... It was MU's first sweep of the Ravens since the 2009 team accomplished the feat. ... Niezgodski, the HCAC's reigning Hitter of the Week, continued her recent tear. She's hit safely in four straight and six of the last seven and has driven in at least one run in three of her last four appearances. ... Lund's five strikeouts in the opener marked the sixth time this season she's had that number or more.