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Raiders’ getting better despite rough spring break trip

Fans watching GRCC baseball. (Breegan Petruska/The Collegiate)

By Jackson Heiden

The Grand Rapids Community College baseball team got thumped during their first week of the season as they took to the road during spring break to face a couple of the top JUCO baseball teams in the country.

The Raiders began their spring break trip in Marianna, Florida, where they played two double-headers throughout the weekend. They opened their season against Wallace Community College-Dothan, where they were not only shut out but mercied after just five innings, losing 10-0. Following the first game of the day, they took on Chipola College where they dropped another frustrating game, 7-1. 

On Sunday they stayed put and played a true double-header against the same Chipola team, the Raiders came out looking like a better team as they dropped a close one, 2-1, despite redshirt-freshman right handed pitcher Jerad Berkenpas nine strikeout performance and freshman infielder Dylan Chargo’s first career home run. Following the close pitchers’ duel, Chipola shut out the Raiders in a 9-0 game.

Following their weekend series of double-headers in Marianna, the Raiders took to Tallahassee, Florida to take on Tallahassee Community College for a Monday afternoon doubleheader. During their first game, the Raiders dropped a tightly battled game 9-8 as redshirt-freshman left fielder Ryan Dykstra and redshirt-freshman catcher Max Varon notched their first homers of the season. The hot bats didn’t carry over to the second game as the Raiders’ were quieted 5-2 to end their day. 

The Raiders took back to the road for a rematch against Wallace Community College-Dothan, this time looking to avoid being mercied. In their first game, the Raiders shut down once again as they dropped another, 7-3. Following game one, the Raiders had one last opportunity to snag a win, however, they came up unsuccessful as they dropped the final game 5-1.

Going into Wednesday, the last scheduled double-header of their spring break trip, the Raiders’ headed back to Florida where they took on Gulf Coast State College where both games were tightly contested matchups. Game one didn’t go as planned as the Raiders were no-hit, 1-0, despite redshirt-freshman pitcher Caleb Engelsman’s strong six innings of one-hit ball. Following the frustrating no-hitter, the bats came alive for the Raiders’ in game two as the team collected eight hits while scoring six in their 7-6 loss.

Heading into the final game day of the trip, the Raiders’ looked to try and get a win as they traveled north to Columbia City, Tennessee to take on Columbia State Community College. The game started quiet as both teams were scoreless through three before the Raiders’ bats erupted for a huge eight-run fourth inning. The Raiders never looked back as they wound up mercying the No. 13 team in the country in seven innings, 15-5. The Raiders’ snapped their 10 game losing streak as they won their first game of the season improving to 1-10. 

“Our goal in JUCO is about development, getting better,” said GRCC’s head coach Mike Eddington. “We played the top D1 JUCOs in the country and I think we learned a lot. I think our guys have confidence that if they can compete with a top D1 JUCO team then they can compete with anyone.”

The Raiders will be taking two weeks off before they hit the road to take on the University of Northwestern Ohio JV in a double-header, Sunday, March 20, at 1 p.m. and then again at 3:30 p.m. 

“Right now we just go day by day, trying to get better,” Eddington said. “I’m looking at tomorrow getting our players better. We just go one day at a time, cause our goal is to get a little better each day. So my goal is, how can we get better tomorrow?”

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