The Hillsdale College baseball team has its longest conference winning streak ever, and the Chargers got there with some clutch hitting and pitching on a blustery Saturday afternoon at Simpson Field.
Hillsdale took down the defending Great Midwest Athletic Conference champion Kentucky Wesleyan in both ends of their matchup, 5-2 and 5-4, improving to 11-13 overall and 8-0 in the G-MAC. The Chargers have won eight straight and each of their first eight-ever G-MAC contests.
The Panthers jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning, but Hillsdale had an answer, scoring once in the first and two more times in the third to take the lead for good. Playing a big part in that turnaround was the work of starting pitcher Andrew Verbrugge.
A sophomore, Verbrugge adjusted nicely after giving up two in the first. Over the last eight innings of the game, Verbrugge allowed no runs on five hits with three strikeouts. Seventy-one of his 105 pitches were strikes, speaking to his efficiency with his pitches, getting KWC to swing at the pitches he wanted them to swing at.
Senior Colin Hites has really solidified the bottom of the Charger lineup with his speed, smarts and ability to get on base. He was 2-for-2 with a run scored and a run batted in during the game one win. Senior Alex Walts scored a pair of runs, and junior Steven Ring had an RBI double.
In game two, junior Colin Boerst delivered the day's biggest clutch hit, slicing a two-run single up the middle to score Hites and Jake Hoover to increase the Charger lead from 3-2 and 5-2. Those two runs would loom large.
Kentucky Wesleyan loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh, then scored on a walk, making the game 5-3, with the bases still loaded and none out.
Hillsdale relief pitcher David Toth then made the biggest pitch of the game, forcing a double play, that while adding one run to the Panther total, got two huge outs. A harmless groundout to Hoover at short ended the game and kept the Chargers perfect in conference play.
Hoover was outstanding defensively at shortstop throughout the doubleheader, showing great range and a lightning-fast ball-glove exchange.
Boerst was 2-for-4 with a run scored and 2 RBI, and Walts was 2-for-3 with two runs scored. Ring was 2-for-2, drove in two and doubled for the seventh time in his past eight games.