FRANKLIN, Ind. – The Franklin College baseball team wrapped up a six-game homestand on Saturday (Apr. 13) afternoon, welcoming the Manchester Spartans to town for two games between two squads deadlocked in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) standings.
In both games, the Grizzlies (16-10, 5-3 HCAC) fell behind the Spartans (8-19, 3-5 HCAC) after the guests jumped on Grizzly starting pitching. But the combination of a relentless offense and a dominant effort from the bullpen helped Franklin rally for two comeback wins by scores of 13-4 and 9-5.
Drew Naumovich drove in four runs and moved into a tie for the team lead with his fifth home run of the year. Alex Mis recorded five hits and Brandt Pawley knocked in three runs in game one. But the story of the day was the Franklin bullpen that saw five pitchers hold the Spartans to just four hits over 11 1/3 innings of scoreless ball.
Game One: Franklin 13 – Manchester 4
After two scoreless frames to open the contest, Manchester took advantage of their first two scoring opportunities, plating a pair of runs in both the third and fourth innings to take an early lead. But the Grizzly bats would wake up shortly after, rattling off 13 unanswered runs to close the game.
The onslaught started with a five-run fourth inning. Nick Wright got the Grizzlies on the board with an RBI single and was followed by another run-scoring single by Alex Mis, plus a throwing error on the play that allowed two total runs to score and make it a 4-3 game. Jordan Crouse tied the game with a sacrifice fly and Jacob Heuchan followed with a run-scoring triple to give the Grizzlies a one-run lead with five innings to play.
Two innings later, the Grizzlies blew up Spartan pitching, scoring six times to put the game out of reach. Mis, Pawley and Quenton Wellington recorded run-scoring singles before Naumovich dealt the final blow with a mammoth three-run home run that cleared the road over the right field wall. Pawley knocked in two runs with a single in the seventh, capping a 13-hit game for the Grizzly offense.
Jordan Clark made his third start of the year, allowing four runs on four hits with four walks and eight strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings of work. Ben Sprinkle (3-1) took over in the fourth and allowed just two hits over 3 1/3 innings to earn the win. Ethan Adams and Nick Elmendorf both worked a scoreless inning to close out the game.
Game Two: Franklin 9 – Manchester 5
The roles flipped in game two with Franklin jumping out to an early lead. Ryan Bixler broke the ice in the first after drawing a bases-loaded walk and Mis followed with an RBI single to make it a 2-0 game. Wellington padded the Franklin lead in the second, bringing home a run with a sacrifice fly, but the offense would stall after that and the Spartans battled back with three runs in the third and two more in the fourth to take a 5-3 lead.
Heuchan brought the Grizzlies within a run in the sixth, bringing in Crouse with a two-out double. But the offense would stall out in the seventh and Franklin headed to the eighth with a one-run deficit to make up.
With one out in the eighth, Crouse tied the game when he scored from third on a wild pitch. With the bases loaded and still one out, Naumovich put the Grizzlies in front when he worked a walk that brought Heuchan home. One batter later, Sam Claycamp added some insurance with a two-run single and Naumovich capped the scoring when he came in on a fielding error.
Aaron Leming made his first appearance out of the bullpen this year in the ninth, working a scoreless frame to close out the victory. Krae Sparks got the start and lasted three innings, allowing four hits and four earned runs. Nate Stonebraker (3-2) was dominant out of the bullpen, tossing five innings of no-hit ball while striking out seven and walking three.
Franklin opens a pivotal six-game road swing on Tuesday (Apr. 16) night, when they head west for two games against league-leading Rose-Hulman. The Grizzlies and Engineers get underway at 4:00 p.m.