By Sean Chase
The Grand Rapids Community College baseball team obliterated the Aquinas JV baseball team in a double-header on Wednesday, April 14, winning both games, 16-5 and 5-3. The Raiders’ record is 14-7.
“Trying to get better everyday is our goal,” said Mike Eddington, GRCC’s head baseball coach. “The more we play, the better we get. Everyone today got an opportunity to play, (they were) good wins for us.”
After dropping an extra-inning thriller due to a walk-off grand slam against Muskegon Community College on April 11. The Raiders looked to bounce back in the Art Van Sports Complex.
Saints pitcher Blake Wright took the mound against the Raiders in the first game. After hitting GRCC redshirt-sophomore Jake Ryan with a pitch to open the top of the first inning, Sam Schmitt bunted down the third base line. What looked to be a routine play, turned into the Raiders first run of the contest, as the throw to first base was off-target, allowing Ryan to score. When the half inning was over, GRCC held a nice 3-0 lead.
Freshman Keegan Spomer took the mound for the Raiders, and made quick work of the Saints in the bottom of the first inning, retiring the side in-order. However, after a quiet top of the second for the Raiders, Aquinas JV found their stride to tie the game up, 3-3, as GRCC struggled in the field.
The Raiders immediately took the lead back in the top of the fourth inning, 4-3, when redshirt-freshman Jake Paganelli doubled to centerfield scoring freshman Ryan Dykstra.
Going into the seventh inning, each team had tallied two more runs, with GRCC clinging onto a one-run lead, 6-5. As the temperatures were dropping in Rockford, the Raiders bats were coming to life. In the top of the seventh, GRCC piled on 10 runs as they brought 17 runners to the plate. When the dust had settled, the Raiders held an impressive 11-point lead, 16-5. The Raiders lead held up, as any thought of a comeback from the Saints was eliminated by GRCC pitcher freshman Jerad Berkenpas, who struck out two in the half-inning.
GRCC’s dominance at the plate continued into the top of the first inning of the second, as the Raiders jumped out to a 1-0 lead off of a double by Dykstra, plating Ryan. Followed by back-to-back wild pitches from Saints’ pitcher Tristan Hysell, to increase the Raiders’ lead, 3-0.
Eddington handed the ball to GRCC freshman Blake Waibel, as the Raiders’ defense came out to start the bottom of the first inning. The Saints scored a quick run, cutting into the GRCC lead, 3-1. However, Waibel settled down on the mound to silence the Aquinas JV bats for the rest of the half-inning.
“I’m very happy for (Waibel),” Eddington said. “It’s his first college win. Coming out of high school he had some arm problems and it will be huge for his development and confidence.”
Neither team was able to get anything going through the second and third innings. However, in the top of the fourth inning the Raiders were able to add another insurance run to their lead, off of a single from Ryan that allowed freshman Brady Owen to score, putting GRCC up 4-1.
Aquinas JV wouldn’t answer back until the bottom of the fifth inning, where they plated one run to cut into the Raider lead, 4-2. The Saints momentum disappeared when the Raiders came back to the plate in the top of the sixth. As they added another run to the scoreboard, 5-2, when freshman Fernando Rivera-Calderon crossed the plate off of a sacrifice-fly from Dykstra.
As the Raiders exited the dugout for the bottom of the sixth inning, freshman Caleb Englesman, from Rockford, took the mound. Englesman’s breaking ball was working, and he proceeded to slam the door on the Saints, striking out the side on 11 pitches.
Nothing came from the top of the seventh inning for the Raiders offensively, but with Englesman dealing it wouldn’t matter. After Englesman popped a batter up, and struck another out, the Saints began to rally with one out remaining in the contest. Unfortunately though for the Saints, the rally only consisted of one run, allowing the Raiders to hold on for their second win of the day, 5-3.
The next double-header on the schedule for the Raiders is scheduled for Friday, April 16, where they will face-off against the nationally ranked Bruins of Kellogg Community College at the newly renamed LMCU ballpark.
“I’m happy that the kids get to experience (LMCU),” Eddington said. “One of my goals is, I want them to enjoy playing baseball. It’s great for them, and we look forward to the challenge of playing Kellogg.”
The first game of the double-header at LMCU is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Due to COVID-19, capacity will be limited to 2,500 people, attendees will undergo a temperature check and are required to wear face coverings and adhere to social distancing guidelines, however admission and parking will be free of charge for the event.
For those that would rather not attend in-person, both games will be live-streamed by Michigan Sports Radio.