Final Four Fever: Weekend series win locks up HCAC bid, 20-win campaign

Final Four Fever: Weekend series win locks up HCAC bid, 20-win campaign

FRANKLIN, IND. – Eight players finished with multiple-hit efforts, while junior pitchers Taylor Kopplin (Westport, Ind.) and Stephen Pinarski (Goshen, Ind.) stepped to the forefront for Manchester University Saturday and Sunday, May 6 and 7.

Battling Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference foe in a key set that had postseason implications, the Black and Gold (21-19 overall, 18-9 HCAC) got up off the mat at FC's John P. McDowell Field for a doubleheader sweep Sunday after being sidelined by a Grizzlies' rally in the opener Saturday at Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis. After surrendering three runs on two hits in the home team's first at-bat of the twinbill opener, Kopplin knuckled down and limited Franklin to one run on seven hits over his final seven frames. Meanwhile, the visiting offense posted a single tally in the second, three in the fifth, two in the seventh and two in the ninth, off-setting a two-run home team ninth inning comeback attempt in route to a 9-5 victory. After a wild start to the weekend finale in which the two teams combined for 13 runs over the first two innings, Pinarski came out of the bullpen and locked up the Grizzlies to the tune of one earned run on five hits while striking out two over the final five. On the offensive end, the Spartan bats opened up an insurmountable lead by registering 11 runs over the fourth through sixth frames to win 18-7 in seven innings.

Weekend highlights for Coach Rick Espeset's "O" came from many sources. Included in those were senior first baseman Tailur Szarenski (Bluffton, Ind.) who extended his current on-base streak to 19 with five hits, two of which were doubles, to go along with four runs scored and two RBI; sophomore right fielder Tyler La Follette (Warsaw, Ind.) who hit .500 (four for eight) with seven runs scored, eight walks earned and a .750 on-base percentage; senior Lucas Gramman (Lawrenceburg, Ind.) who came off the bench for a three-for-seven, two-runs scored, two-RBI line; senior outfielder Chad Schultz (Fair Oaks, Ind.) and sophomore shortstop Braxton Riley (Fort Wayne, Ind.) who each tallied three hits; freshman Joe Gallatin (Muncie, Ind.) who upped his
on-base streak to 15 games with three hits and a team-leading five RBI; and senior infielder Kevin Clarke (Cincinnati, Ohio) who tallied three hits including a home run.

Behind the series victory, Espeset's program continued an amazing run of reaching the league postseason final four for the 19th time in the last 21 seasons. Manchester University, the second seed, travels to Earlham College's Sadler Field, for a 3:30 p.m. game against third-seeded Mt. St. Joseph Thursday, May 11. Top-seed and tourney host Earlham takes on fourth-seed and defending champion Rose-Hulman at 12 p.m.

NOTES: Two other players kept double-digit on-base strings going over the weekend. Junior left fielder Eric Knepper (Bremen, Ind.) increased his to 14, while La Follette moved to 10 straight.

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