By Sean Chase
The Grand Rapids Community College baseball team battled from deficits in both games of a double-header against Glen Oaks Community College on Friday, April 23, winning 6-5 and 4-3. The Raiders’ record is now 17-10.
“Well, it was good to find a way to win a tight game, a couple tight games today,” said Mike Eddington, GRCC’s head baseball coach. “Hopefully, it will give us some confidence when we’re in a tight game.”
Redshirt-freshman Collin Bradley took the bump for the Raiders in the first game of the day, striking out two batters in the top of the first inning. GRCC’s bats followed Bradley’s lead, as they looked to get off to a fast start against the Vikings. After a leadoff walk by redshirt-sophomore Jake Ryan, Glen Oaks freshman Cameron Wilson secured two quick outs. However, he seemingly lost touch with the strike zone, as he walked freshman Ryan Dykstra and plunked freshman Fernando Rivera-Calderon to load the bases.
Wilson followed these free passes up with a walk of redshirt-freshman Jake Paganelli, scoring Ryan, and putting the Raiders on the board, 1-0. Freshman Caleb Englesman added to the GRCC lead, with a single to left field bringing Dykstra and Rivera-Calderon home, 3-0, before the start of the second inning.
Bradley’s dominance on the mound continued through the top of the third inning, as the score remained 3-0. However in the bottom of the fourth, the Vikings found life in the batter’s box, notching their first runs of the game, 3-2.
Through five innings the Raiders held onto their slim advantage, but in the top of the sixth, the Vikings once again broke through at the plate. After a line drive single to right field score one run, tying the game up, 3-3. An error by GRCC redshirt-freshman Sam Schmitt allowed two more runs to cross home plate for Glen Oaks, as they took their first lead of the game, 5-3.
Once GRCC was back up to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning, they mounted a rally of their own. After Englesman reached on a walk, he was moved into scoring position off of a single from redshirt-freshman Payton Young. Freshman Camden Keatley laid-down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third. With the tying runs in scoring position, Ryan was hit by a pitch from Wilson to load the bases.
With one out and the bases loaded, Schmitt stepped to the plate. After taking a first pitch strike, Schmitt connected with a ball sending it at the center fielder. As the catch was made, Englesman tagged up and cut the Vikings lead to one, 5-4. The next batter into the box was redshirt-freshman Aaron West, who doubled to left scoring Young and tying the game, 5-5.
The score remained 5-5 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, as the Raiders brought in redshirt-freshman Matt Williams to pinch hit. After Williams was struck by a pitch, Eddington brought in redshirt-freshman Keaton Peck as a pinch runner. Peck was then moved into scoring position off of a sacrifice bunt from Ryan, bringing Schmitt to the plate. Schmitt connected with a 3-2 pitch, scoring Peck and giving the Raiders the game one win, 6-5.
After a heartbreaking loss, Glen Oaks looked to answer back. The Raiders sent redshirt-sophomore Garrett Cheslek to the mound to stifle the Vikings batters. However, the first pitch from Cheslek of the day ended up leaving the park, as Glen Oaks took a 1-0 lead. The Vikings would tack on two more runs in the third inning to increase their lead, 3-0.
Being held scoreless going into the bottom of the third inning, the Raiders were looking for a spark. Williams recorded a single, bringing up Peck. After taking the first pitch for a ball, Peck turned on a pitch sending it over the left field fence, his first homerun as a Raider, to put GRCC on the board, 3-2.
As the pitchers for both teams settled in, runs became harder to come by. Until the bottom of the fifth inning, when the Raiders bats once again broke through. A Williams double tied the game up. Then with two outs, Ryan singled to centerfield, scoring Williams, and giving GRCC their first lead of the game, 4-3. The Raiders would hold on to win by the same score, as Cheslek recorded a complete game, giving up five hits with six strikeouts.
“I thought he did a great job,” Eddington said, when asked about Cheslek’s dominant performance. “First pitch of the game he gave up a homerun, and it didn’t phase him. He just settled in and pitched well.”
While the Raiders managed to win both games, Eddington would like to see more success in the batter’s box.
“It’s gotta be a lot better, in my eyes,” Eddington said. “We’ve gotta have a better hitting approach and learn to make quicker adjustments. The pitchers we faced (on Friday), didn’t throw as hard and we’ve just gotta be able to make quick adjustments on the speed of the ball.”
Next the Raiders will go on the road to face Glen Oaks CC in a double-header on Saturday, April 24, with the first game set to begin at 1 p.m.