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May 19, 2016

Wolverines split with Behrend in ECAC Southwest series; “if” game tomorrow

ERIE, Pa. -- The Grove City College baseball team pulled out a 5-4, 10-inning victory in the opener before falling to Penn State Behrend 7-4 in the nightcap as the Wolverines and Lions split the first two games of a best-of-three series for the Eastern College Athletic Conference Division III Southwest Championship on Thursday afternoon at Behrend Field.

Junior first baseman Matt Waugaman (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Allegheny) led the Wolverines with three hits on the day and three RBIs, tying the Grove City single-season home run record with his 13th longball of the year and breaking the season RBIs record with numbers 52, 53 and 54. Waugaman also established new College single-season records for games played (43) and started (43) in the doubleheader.

Additionally, with the game one victory, Grove City tied the program single-season wins record, matching the 26 victories recorded by the 2006 Wolverines.

In the opener, the Lions (30-17) jumped out to a 1-0 lead on the Wolverines in the bottom of the first as Hlavinka drew a one-out walk and stole second before coming home to score on a Bohman RBI-single to right center.

Grove City got on the board in the top of the third as junior shortstop David Laylock (Pittsburgh, Pa./Pine Richland) led off the inning by being hit by a pitch and went first to third on a Waugaman one-out single to center. Junior catcher Andy Fritz (Saxonburg, Pa./Knoch) followed with an RBI-single through the left side to score Laylock and tie the score at 1-1, and senior designated hitter Travis Royer (Forest, Va./Twin Valley, Pa.) later hit a two-out double to left center that scored both runners to give Grove City a 3-1 lead.

Behrend wasted no time in evening the score, as Alex Margraf and Brandon Bergstrom hit consecutive one-out singles and John Hlavinka followed with an RBI-double down the left field line to give the Lions runners on second and third. That allowed Bergstrom to score and make it a 3-3 game on a Brian Bohman RBI-groundout.

The game would remain tied until the top of the seventh. Royer drew a leadoff hit-by-pitch and moved to second on a single by freshman outfielder Shane Hammel (Fort Collins, Colo./Fossil Ridge). Freshman Travis Auth (Medina, Ohio/Medina) pinch ran for Royer, and sophomore second baseman Cam Smail (Apollo, Pa./Kiski Area) laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners into scoring position. That allowed Auth to score on an RBI-groundout by sophomore center fielder Tyler Graham (Vandergrift, Pa./Kiski Area) and give the Wolverines a 4-3 advantage at the stretch.

Grove City and freshman pitcher John Bini (Staten Island, N.Y./Xaverian) would hold onto that lead into the bottom of the ninth, but, after a quick first out, Bini hit Hlavinka and gave up a pinch-hit single up the middle to William Kirkpatrick to give the Lions a pair of baserunners. A David Boehme single to right center scored Hlavinka to tie the score at 4-4 and left the Lions with runners on the corners and just one out. Coach Matt Royer chose to intentionally walk Scott Sada to load the bases, and that decision paid off, as the Wolverines were able to get the force out at home plate on the subsequent groundout for the second out of the inning. Senior Ryan Gallagher (Pittsburgh, Pa./Shaler) then came on in relief, inducing an inning-ending, bases-loaded groundout to escape the jam and send the game into extras.

The Wolverines took advantage of a Lion error in the top of the 10th to reclaim the lead. Laylock reached on an error to open the frame and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by junior right fielder Nolan Myers (Landisville, Pa./Hempfield). Waugaman was intentionally walked to create the force, and a Fritz groundout could have been the double-play the Lions were seeking, but Laylock held up in the basepath on his way to third, creating some confusion for the Behrend defense and leaving them only with the force play at third. That left a runner in scoring position for freshman third baseman Micah Burke (Gilbert, Ariz./E.V.A.C.), who singled to right field to score Waugaman and put Grove City back on top 5-4.

Gallagher got a quick popup to start the bottom of the 10th, but Margraf’s ball toward the left side of the infield deflected off of Burke’s glove and redirected just out of the reach of Laylock to be scored as a single, and Bergstrom followed with a single to left to give the Lions life with one out. Gallagher then forced Hlavinka to put a ball high into right field, but the afternoon sun played havoc with Myers, causing the ball to drop in just inside the foul line for a single to load the bases. Gallagher, however, would escape the jam once again, inducing a fly ball to shallow right field that held the runner at third and a popup to get out of the inning and preserve the victory

Gallagher earned the victory in relief to improve to 5-3 on the season, allowing three hits and no runs in one and one-third scoreless innings. Bini lasted eight and two-thirds innings on the bump for Grove City in the start, scattering 11 hits and four earned runs while striking out three, walking five and hitting a pair.

In the nightcap, it was Grove City, batting in the bottom half as the home team, who jumped out to a first-inning 1-0 lead as Laylock hit a leadoff double and later came home to score on a Waugaman RBI-groundout.

Laylock’s double, however, would be the Wolverines’ lone hit until the sixth inning while Penn State Behrend scored three times in the second, once in the third, once in the fifth and twice in the sixth to take a 7-1 lead before a Fritz leadoff single in the bottom of the sixth ended the drought.

Grove City would try to mount a late comeback, starting with a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh. Graham drew a leadoff walk – his third walk of the game – and later moved to second on a Burke single through the right side. Graham scored and Burke went first-to-third on a Waugaman RBI-single through the right side, and Burke would then score to cut the deficit to 7-3 on an RBI-groundout by freshman catcher Derek Boyle (Stafford, Va./Brooke Point) before a Hammel groundout ended the inning.

The Wolverines were unable to take advantage of a pair of walks in the bottom of the eighth, stranding both baserunners. In the bottom of the ninth, Waugaman smashed a ball well over the right field fence for his record-tying 13th home run of the year to close the Lions’ lead to 7-4, but that would be all Grove City would manage as the Lions closed the victory to force Friday’s decisive third game.

Junior Cam Lawson (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Hills) started and took the loss on the mound for Grove City, allowing seven hits and seven earned runs over five and two-thirds innings of work while striking out four, walking four and hitting four. Myers finished the game in relief for the Wolverines with one of his best outings of the season, allowing just three hits while striking out one in three and one-third scoreless innings.

Grove City will return to Behrend Field tomorrow at 2 p.m. to face the Lions in the decisive third game of the ECAC DIII Southwest Championship series.

Game 1 Box Score   Game 2 Box Score

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