Wheaton (Ill.) opens season with doubleheader split at #7-ranked Birmingham-Southern

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Birmingham, Ala. - The Wheaton baseball team opened its 2018 season on Saturday with a doubleheader split at Birmingham-Southern College. Ranked seventh in the preseason Top-25 poll by D3baseball.com, the Panthers won the opener on Saturday 5-3 but Wheaton used a seven-run second inning to take a lead it would not relinquish, en route to a 12-2 victory. The victory is Wheaton's first over an opponent ranked in the top-10 in at least a decade. Birmingham-Southern is now 4-3 on the season.

Wheaton's 12 runs in game two came on 19 hits with one error. Birmingham-Southern was held to two runs on eight hits with one error. Ty Hoeksema earned the win for Wheaton, navigating a rain delay to last five innings, allowing two runs on five hits with four strikeouts. Alex Hanvey, Jacob Garrity, and Nick Johnson combined for four shutout innings of relief, allowing just three hits and two walks.

After a Panther sac fly in the bottom of the first inning, Wheaton evened the score in the top of the second inning on Sam Reichert's single scoring Ben Brittain. After a walk to Graham Core to load the bases, Nick Mailman drove in two runs with the first of four-straight run-scoring hits. Jesse Welch and Joel Pierce followed with run-scoring singles to chase Panther starting pitcher Andy Hammond after just four outs. Johnny Peltz welcomed the Panther bullpen with an RBI single to left field. Ben Brittain's infield single was followed by an RBI single by Evan Ogden to push the Wheaton lead to 7-1.

Hoeksema worked his way out of bases loaded jam in the bottom of the second inning before facing a half hour rain delay in the bottom of the third inning. Despite a pair of walks sandwiched around the rain delay, Hoeksema limited the Panthers to just a run in the bottom of the third, cutting Wheaton's lead to 7-2.

Wheaton added to its lead in the top of the sixth inning when Brittain drove home Pierce with a double down the left field line. After stranding the bases loaded in the top of the seventh inning, Wheaton blew the game open with four runs in the top of the eight inning. Ogden started the scoring with an infield single plating Peltz. Following a Seth Meyer single, Reichert doubled in Ogden, moving Meyer to third. Connor Hartman then plated both runners with a single to right field, accounting for the 12-2 final score.

Eight different Thunder hitters drove in a run in the nightcap, with seven different hitters recording multiple hits. Nick Mailman and Sam Reichert led the charge with three hits apiece while Jesse Welch, Joel Pierce, Johnny Peltz, Ben Brittain, and Evan Ogden each had two hits.

In game one of the doubleheader, Peltz gave Wheaton the initial lead with a third inning single scoring Mailman. The lead was short lived as Birmingham-Southern answered in the bottom of the third with a single to right, tying the score at one. The Panthers struck for three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning and added another run in the home half of the seventh inning to take a 5-1 lead. Wheaton cut the lead down to 5-3 with Peltz and Brittain connected on back-to-back RBI singles with one out in the top of the eighth inning, but Wheaton could not complete the comeback.

Wheaton will next be in action on Saturday, March 3, with an 11 am first pitch against Howard Payne University in Tucson, Arizona, in the first game of Wheaton's annual Spring Trip.