DC Drops HCAC Opening Round Thriller to No. 13 Manchester
NORTH MANCHESTER, Ind. – The Yellow Jacket baseball squad traveled to Manchester University on Thursday for the opening round of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament. In a game that came down to the final play, the Jackets lost by a final score of 7-6.With the Purple and Gold trailing by two runs heading into the top of the ninth at 7-5, the Defiance bats staged a rally in attempt to tie the game at 7-7. With one out and no one on, Gary Levengood roped a single into center to put the tying run at the plate.Matt Staels then came in as a pinch runner for Levengood and Ben Weber was called upon to pinch hit. The freshman hit a shot deep to right field before it was caught at the wall for the second out of the inning.With the Jackets down to their last out, Ryan Kohlhofer kept the team alive with an infield single to second to put runners on first and second. Aaron Helland then stepped up and delivered a single into left field to score Staels and move the tying run into scoring position at second.Defiance's number two hitter in the lineup, Chris Donese, sent a pitch into left field for a single. Kohlhofer, the tying run, was waved home on the hit, setting up a decisive play at the plate.Manchester's left fielder Cody Schell fielded the ball cleanly and fired home. The ball narrowly beat Kohlhofer to the plate and Spartan catcher Elliot Ford put the tag on the runner to prevent the Jackets from tying the game and securing Manchester the victory.To begin the game, the Purple and Gold got off to a strong start against the No. 13 team in the country by opening up the scoring in the top of the second. Joel Musser led the inning off by lacing a double into right field. Levengood singled into center to drive in the first run of the game and give DC an early 1-0 lead.The Yellow Jackets tacked on another run in the third after loading the bases with one out. Levengood came through once again with a base hit into centerfield to pick up his second RBI of the game and extend the DC lead to 2-0.Manchester's potent offense woke up in the bottom of the third to the tune of a six-run inning. The Spartans used four singles and one double along with a DC error to plate the six runs and grab a commanding 6-2 lead after three. The hosts scored four of its six runs with two outs.After going down by four runs, the Jackets showed the mental toughness the team has displayed all season and began to fight their way back into the game.Defiance immediately answered with a run in the top of the fourth to draw within three at 6-3. The Purple and Gold's Aaron Helland led off the frame with a single and then stole second to give the Jackets a runner in scoring position. Pat Masopust came through with a two-out single into right to score Helland.After a scoreless fifth frame, the Yellow Jackets offense was back at it in the sixth. Helland got things started with his second single of the afternoon. The junior then swiped his second base of the day and subsequently moved to third on a groundout from Chris Donese.Starting pitcher Darin Waterman then came through with a big two-out single to score Helland followed by a double courtesy of Masopust to bring the Jackets within one run at 6-5. The two six inning runs gave DC five in the last five frames.Manchester then stretched the lead back to two runs in the bottom of the frame, scoring an important insurance run in the bottom of the sixth off back-to-back two-out triples from Brad Murphy and Corey Marchant to give the hosts a 7-5 advantage.DC and the Spartans each failed to score in the seventh and eighth innings setting up the aforementioned dramatic finish in the top of the ninth.Despite the loss, the Jackets outplayed the top-seeded Spartans for much of the game. Defiance recorded five more hits than the hosts, including two more base-knocks with runners in scoring position. DC also drew more walks and left more men on base than Manchester. The game marks the first time all season that Defiance has lost a game in which it recorded more hits than the opposition.The Yellow Jackets had five hitters who recorded multiple hits. The team was led by Levengood, who had a career day by going 4-5 at the plate with two runs driven in.Even while giving up six earned runs, Waterman had a solid performance on the mound for the Purple and Gold. The junior went 7.2 innings and struck out seven, while holding the Manchester bats scoreless in six of the eight innings he pitched.With the loss, the Jackets will play the loser of Anderson and Franklin in an elimination game on Friday, May 10. The game has a tentative start time of 12:30 p.m.