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Raiders’ pitching rebound after a messy first game

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GRCC baseball team lined up for the National Anthem on Friday, April 16, 2021 at LMCU Ballpark. (Breegan Petruska/The Collegiate)

By Jackson Heiden

After inclement weather canceled the games Friday and Saturday, the Grand Rapids Community College baseball team’s matchup with Lake Michigan College came out and split a Sunday afternoon doubleheader series, improving the Raiders’ record to 6-14.

Redshirt-freshman Caleb Engelsman started on the hump for the Raiders’ Sunday afternoon and quickly ran through the Red Hawks lineup through the first three innings while only giving up two hits. 

Freshman Dylan Chargo came through big in the top of the third as he crushed a grand slam to put the Raiders ahead comfortably 4-0. 

“You’re up to bat, do your job,” said GRCC’s head coach Mike Eddington. “Look for a pitch, something you can drive. This is where you want to bat when the bases are loaded and guys are in scoring position and Dylan came through and gave us a big hit.”

The Raiders’ lead only lasted an inning as things turned for the worse as Engelsman’s nice outing was spoiled when the Red Hawks knocked a few singles and cleared them with a triple to tie the game, and ultimately take the lead 5-4 due to a defensive error. 

“Lake Michigan has a very good team. They have a lot of good hitters,” Eddington said. “Caleb was hitting his spots in the beginning of the game and kind of lost command of his pitches and against a good team like Michigan, you can’t do that.” 

The Raiders fought back as a couple of singles and a double drove in a run to tie the game at five going into the bottom of the fifth. The Red Hawks came right back in the fifth to tie it up yet again going into the later parts of the game. 

The worst of it came in the bottom of the sixth inning as a walk, two hit by pitches and an error pushed the Red Hawk’s lead to 9-6. Following yet another hit by pitch, the Red Hawks unloaded them all with a three-run blast to give them a huge 12-6 lead with only one out in the inning. The Red Hawks kept swinging away following the home run as a couple of singles and a double drove in two more to give them a 14-6 lead. 

After the nightmare of an inning, the Raiders had one more chance to do something with the game. The Raiders struck out to start the top of the seventh, followed by a hit pitch which ended with a grounding into a double play. The Raiders dropped their first matchup 14-6. 

With a nightmare of a first game for the pitching staff, the Raiders sent redshirt-freshman Jerad Berkenpas to the mound to continue his early-season success while trying to get the bad taste of the first game out of their mouth. 

“We gotta get back and play our games and believe in ourselves,” Eddington said. “Baseball is not an easy game, you fail more than you succeed, and you just have to stay the course and keep battlin.”

Berkenpas did just that as he dominated the entire game throwing six innings, striking out eight batters, and allowing four hits and no runs. Berkenpas was helped by his offense early on in the top of the fourth as the Raiders’ hit three singles with the third single being the deciding factor as it drove in two runs to give them a 2-0 lead.

The Raiders’ tacked on a couple of insurance runs in the top of the seventh to help them push by the Red Hawks, as an error, triple, and a single gave them a comfortable 4-0 lead headed into the bottom of the seventh. Redshirt-freshman Elliot Traver came in to close out the game and he did just so as he notched his first save of the season and the Raiders’ win. 

“Berkenpas pitched a great game,” Eddington said. “We had some good timely hitting and played clean defensively and that’s what you gotta do to win.”

The Raiders continue their road trip this Tuesday afternoon as they visit Cornerstone’s JV in a weekday doubleheader matchup with the first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m.

“We just want to play to get better,” Eddington said. “Two years ago, we only got 10 games in and last year we didn’t get a lot in before we got shut down to COVID. We just want to keep playing and get better and that’s what JUCO is all about. I’m happy about our bounceback in the second game, hopefully we can build on that.”

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