BC takes two from Hanover, HCAC tournament possible with sweep of DefianceBy Tim Stried, SID
April 29, 2002
The Bluffton College baseball team collected two huge wins last Friday over the Heartland Conference's second-place club, Hanover College, to take a step closer to making their goal of reaching the HCAC tournament a reality.
"It was the best single day that we've had in the HCAC," said head coach Greg Brooks, who has seen his club win six of their last seven league games. "It's been the highlight of our season so far and gives us something to play for this coming weekend."
Bluffton (9-9 HCAC, 12-21 overall) now faces rival Defiance College (6-12 HCAC, 13-17-2 overall) in a three-game series this weekend with a chance at qualifying for the HCAC tournament, which involves the top four teams in the league at the close of the regular season. BC takes on Defiance Friday at 3:30 in a nine-inning game at Sears Field followed by a double-header at Defiance on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m.
The Beavers must win all three games against the Yellow Jackets and then hope for help from one of three teams above them in the current HCAC standings. If Franklin (14-3 HCAC) sweeps all three games from Hanover (12-6 HCAC) this weekend, BC will qualify for the tournament. The other scenario involves Manchester (11-7 HCAC) and Anderson (11-7 HCAC), who play each other in a three-game series this weekend. If either team sweeps the other, BC will qualify for the tournament. If both those scenarios happen, the Beavers will earn the number three seed.
The Beavers already know what's it's like to be in a must-win situation, though. Against Hanover last weekend, BC knew they had to win at least two games over the powerful Panther squad to even be in a position to talk about the HCAC tournament.
"Up until the Transylvania series, we've not been consistent enough in all phases of the game to put two wins together in the league," said Brooks, "but at this point a three-game sweep is possible, even through it will be very difficult against our rivals at Defiance."
"We'll be prepared to play each game as a do-or-die situation, and then hope for the best scenario regarding the tournament. I believe our kids will be ready for the challenge, and we still have a winning HCAC season as a goal to play for even if we don't get into the tournament, which would be a big step for us," said Brooks, noting that BC's nine league wins are the most since Bluffton joined the HCAC prior to the 1999 season.
Hanover arrived in Bluffton last Friday with over 20 wins and an 11-4 mark in the HCAC, but Bluffton won the first game of the double-header 5-2 and came from behind for an 8-4 win in game two.
In the opener, sophomore Bob Heitkamp worked the first six innings for the win and junior Wes Hall closed the door in the seventh as the BC offense was led by senior Brad Buckingham (3-for-4), senior Todd Pickthorn (2-for-4, 2 rbi) and sophomore Jim Dwenger (2-for-2). In the nightcap, Hall went the distance on the mound and Bluffton scored five runs with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take an 8-4 victory. Buckingham (4-for-4), Dwenger (3-for-4) and Pickthorn (2-for-4, 3 rbi) led Bluffton at the plate and sophomore Kyle Alberson hit his sixth homerun of the season.
On Saturday, sophomore Josh Underwood allowed just three earned runs in nine innings of work, but Hanover prevailed 4-2. Hall notched two singles and Alberson hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning, bringing his career homerun total to 14, which are now just three away from tying the school record of 17 held by Dave Rodriguez (1987-90).
Special to: The Bluffton News