By Sean Chase
The Grand Rapids Community College baseball team dropped both games in a double-header against nationally-ranked Kellogg Community College, 3-1 and 6-5, on Friday, April 16, at the newly renamed LMCU Ballpark. The Raiders’ record on the season is now, 14-9.
Even before the signage around the stadium could fully be adjusted to represent the stadium’s name change from Fifth Third Ballpark to LMCU Ballpark, the Raiders were given the opportunity to face off against the Bruins. After piling on runs in a double-header against Aquinas JV, on April 14, GRCC looked to continue their winning streak.
Redshirt-freshman Collin Bradley took the mound for the Raiders to start the first game of the day. After recording an out, Bradley hit the second batter that he faced in the top of the first inning. However, he settled in from then on striking out the side in the top of the second.
“It was incredible,” said Mike Eddington, GRCC’s head baseball coach, when asked about Bradley’s performance. “He battled, he competed. He did a good enough job to win, we just came up a little bit short.”
Bradley’s dominance continued, as he recorded four more strikeouts through the top of the fourth inning, as both teams were struggling to score runs. However, in the bottom of the fourth, the Raiders made their move on the sixth-ranked Bruins, per the most recent National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division II rankings.
Redshirt-freshman Sam Schmitt started the Raiders’ half of the inning with a bunt single down the third baseline, bringing redshirt-freshman Aaron West to the plate. After fouling a pitch off, West turned on a ball driving it into left-field, by the time the ball landed in front of the left-fielder, Schmitt was rounding third towards home plate for the first run of the game. West ended up on second, as the Raiders took the 1-0 lead.
GRCC’s bats weren’t able to create any more runs in the half-inning, and with the Bruins’ unable to build any momentum against Bradley, the Raiders’ slim lead would hold until the top of the seventh inning.
After back-to-back singles from the Bruins, Bradley retaliated with a filthy strikeout. But the next batter he faced drove the ball into left field, bringing the runners home and giving Kellogg their first lead of the day, 2-0. A throwing error by GRCC freshman Camden Keatley would plate another run for the Bruins, as they padded their 3-0 lead. Bradley struck out the next two batters to end the Kellogg run. However, the Raiders would meet the same fate in the bottom of the seventh, as they struck out in order to end the game.
Though he took the loss, Bradley threw 117 pitches recording a complete game for the Raiders, with 10 strikeouts, while giving up three hits and two earned runs.
For game two, Eddington put redshirt-sophomore Garrett Cheslek on the hill for GRCC. Cheslek quickly fell into trouble, allowing a single followed by back-to-back doubles from the Bruins, putting the Raiders down 2-0, in the top of the first inning.
The score remained the same until the top of the fourth inning, as the Raiders bats struggled to get going. After forcing the first two batters of the inning to groundout to the left side of the infield, and allowing a single, Cheslek walked the next two batters he faced, loading the bases.
In an effort to stop Kellogg from growing their lead further, the Raiders made a pitching change, bringing redshirt-freshman Drew Murphy to the mound. Murphy walked the first two batters he faced, and allowed a run-scoring single, before forcing a fly out to end the inning. When the dust settled, the Bruins lead was 5-0.
Freshman Ryan Dykstra singled to start the bottom of the fourth for the Raiders. After freshman Fernando Rivera-Calderon reached on an error, a single from freshman Caleb Englesman would score Dykstra, and put the Raiders on the board, 5-1. Two batters later, redshirt-freshman Payton Young would record a single, plating Rivera-Calderon, and cutting the Bruins lead to three, 5-2.
Kellogg’s bats began to struggle as the Raiders’ bullpen kept the game close, as GRCC continued to chip away at the deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning. With two outs, a Dykstra single scored a run, which Rivera-Calderon followed by drawing a walk, Englesman then singled driving in two runs, drawing the Raiders within one of the Bruins, 6-5.
Unfortunately, the second game would end by the same score, with the Raiders losing both games on the day.
“I give our guys credit for battling,” Eddington said. “We just gotta find a way to make a play to win. I think our guys have done a great job battling. We haven’t had a lot of breaks, and it’s like life, it’s not always fair but you gotta get back and keep battling. Baseball is a lot of life lessons.”
With the season goal of getting better, the Raiders will head back home to Belknap Park for a double-header against the Davenport University JV baseball team, on Tuesday, April 20. The first game is set to start at 2 p.m.