HANOVER, Ind. – The Franklin College baseball team looked for their first conference wins of the year on Tuesday (Apr. 2) afternoon with a pair of contests against the Hanover Panthers to wrap up a stretch of 10 straight games away from home.
The Grizzlies (12-8, 2-2 HCAC) fell behind early in both contests as the Panthers (8-9, 0-2 HCAC) jumped on Grizzly starting pitching in each game. But the Grizzlies would snatch victory from the hosts in both contests, rallying to sweep the twin bill by scores of 10-9 and 9-5.
Franklin smacked five home runs on the afternoon, with sophomore Jordan Crouse belting go-ahead two-run home runs in each game. Nick Wright, Ryan Bixler and Drew Naumovich all went deep for Franklin in game two as the Grizzlies extended their winning streak over Hanover to eight games.
Game One: Franklin 10 – Hanover 9
Franklin loaded the bases with no outs in the first and opened the scoring with a sac fly from Naumovich. But the Grizzlies would manage just the one run and Hanover would answer with three runs in each of their first two trips to the plate, opening up a 6-1 lead.
Naumovich drove in his second run of the game with a two-out single in the fifth, but Hanover brought in two runs in their half of the frame to take an 8-2 lead with half the game gone.
With time running out, the Franklin bats came to life in the sixth, grinding out six runs off Panther pitching. The Grizzlies opened the inning with three straight singles before Jacob Bryant brought in a run with a sac fly and Quenton Wellington followed with an RBI single to cut the lead to 8-4.
Bixler followed with a walk to load the bases back up and Sam Claycamp followed by drawing a free pass of his own to score another run. Wright cut the deficit to one with a two-run single and two batters later, Alex Mis tied the game with a sacrifice fly and make it a whole new ball game.
The game remained tied until the bottom of the eighth when the Panthers brought home a run with a sacrifice fly, putting the Grizzlies behind heading into the final inning. With one out in the inning, Mis worked his way on base with a single, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate in the form of Crouse. The center fielder belted another clutch homer for the Grizzlies, drilling a pitch over the wall in left center field to put Franklin on top.
Nate Stonebraker (2-2) nailed down the win with a perfect ninth inning. Ethan Adams was brilliant in relief of starter Mitch Merica, keeping the Panthers in check with five strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings of work.
Game Two: Franklin 9 – Hanover 5
The Panthers came out swinging against Franklin starter Ben Sprinkle in the night cap, tagging the senior pitcher for three runs in the bottom of the first. But Sprinkle would settle down after that, keeping the Panthers off the board and allowing the Franklin offense to settle in and mount another comeback.
Naumovich put Franklin on the board in the second with a solo home run, his fourth round-tripper of the year. Crouse brought the Grizzlies within a run with an RBI single in the fourth and two innings later, he would put Franklin in front for good with another clutch long ball, hammering a pitch and sending it over the left field wall for a two-run blast and a 4-3 FC lead.
Wright smacked his first home run of the year when he sent a two-out pitch over the center field wall to make it a 5-3 game. The Grizzlies added two runs in the eighth to stretch the lead to four but Hanover would counter with two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning to get back within a pair.
But the Grizzlies eliminated any opportunity at a Panther comeback with two runs in the ninth, getting a lead-off home run from Bixler and an RBI triple from Naumovich. Sprinkle (2-0) tossed 5 1/3 innings of four-hit ball, allowing three runs and striking out three. Stonebraker allowed two hits and struck out five over the final 3 2/3 innings to pick up his fifth save of the year.
Franklin returns home on Saturday (Apr. 6) for a pair of HCAC contests against the Bluffton Beavers. First pitch from McDowell Field is set for noon.