By Nick Wesman
The Maple Leafs began conference play with a tough four game series against rival Bethel last weekend. On Friday, March 25 the Leafs traveled to Bethel for the first two games.
In game one, the Leafs struggled in the first two innings, surrendering four runs to the Pilots finding themselves in an early hole. While the pitching and defense settled in and did not allow another run to score, the offense never really found their rhythm and managed to push across one run on the Pilots’ pitcher Elliot Rowe, who went all seven innings against the Maple Leafs. The only Leafs run came in the fourth inning, when sophomore Corey Johnson hit an RBI single. Johnson finished the game with two of Goshen’s five hits, while senior Omar Hernandez and Nathan Stanley and Luke Hucker, sophomores, collected the other two hits for the Leafs. Spencer Oversen, also a sophomore, pitched all six innings for the Maple Leafs, giving up six hits, three earned runs and striking out three in the process.
It looked like it might be more of the same in game two, as the Pilots put up two quick runs in the first inning off senior starter Andrew Priem, and eventually fell down 4-1 by the end of the fourth. But in the top of the fifth, the Leafs rallied for three runs, led by a two run double from Garrett Cannizzo, a junior, and tied the score at four. The Pilots plated two more runs before the seventh inning and looked to close out the game when the Maple Leafs added another three run inning to take the 7-6 lead going into the bottom of the ninth. With runners on first and second and two outs, the Pilots’ Evan Pulliam lined a single to right field and the runner on second attempted to score the tying run. But Leafs right fielder Andy Swisher made the long throw to catcher Corey Johnson, who tagged the runner and gave the Maple Leafs the win.
The two teams turned around and played another double-header on Saturday at Goshen. In the first game, Bethel continued its ability to score early and pounded the Maple Leafs to the tune of ten runs in the first three innings, highlighted by scoring four runs in each of the first two. The Maple Leafs were not able to recover and suffered a 12-0 loss in a five inning game. The Leafs’ three hits in the game came off the bats of junior Nick Wesman and sophomores Stanley and Mike Milligan.
The Maple Leafs looked to turn it around in game two as they had the day before and took a 1-0 lead through the first three innings when Taylor Jergens, a first-year ripped an RBI single in the second that scored Wesman. But this would prove to be the only run that the Leafs could muster and the Pilots’ bats did the rest. Bethel had four- and five- run innings in the fourth and fifth innings respectively and scored one more in the sixth to wrap up a 10-1 victory. The weekend series saw Bethel improve their record to 11-7 and open the MCC season 3-1. The Maple Leafs’ record dropped to 6-19 overall and 1-3 in conference play.
On Tuesday, the Maple Leafs traveled to Ada, Ohio to take on the Ohio Northern University Polar Bears in a non-conference matchup. The Polar Bears’ bats proved to be too much for Goshen, as they put up 13 runs on 12 hits in game one, led by a 3-3 effort from Erik Stegman and a grand slam from catcher Cory Martin. The Maple Leafs scored five times in the contest and were led by Stanley and Hucker with two hits apiece, while Cannizzo hit two doubles.
Game two saw the Polar Bears’ attack continue, as they scored 18 runs on 17 hits for an 18-6 victory. The Leafs managed to score six runs on eight hits. Johnson again led the way for Goshen, collecting three hits in the loss. Hernandez, Wesman and Cannizzo also each had two hits for the Leafs.
With the wins, the Polar Bears improved to 12-4 on the season. The Maple Leafs now sit at 6-21 and look to turn things around in conference with a double-header Thursday, March 31 at home against Spring Arbor.