PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. – On day one, the Heidelberg University baseball team cruised to a win, but on day two, it was a different story. The Student Princes had to put together two-out rallies in both games on Monday, coming from behind late in both to pull off a pair of victories. In game one, HU scored three in the ninth to force extra innings, walking off with a 7-6 victory in 10 innings over Montclair State. In game two, the Berg shocked St. John Fisher with five runs with two out in the bottom of the eighth, rallying for the 6-3 win.
After a morning batting practice under the lights, Heidelberg faced Montclair State in the morning to start off the day. The Red Hawks took the lead early with two runs in the 3rd and one in the 4th, while the Student Princes struggled to string together hits. After three more runs were tacked on by MSU in the top of the 7th, the deficit was six runs as Heidelberg came to the plate in the bottom of the frame.
Christian Verde made his first big impact of the game to get the Berg on the board in the 7th, belting a home run over the left field wall to make the score 6-1. That would be all for the inning, though, as they still trailed by five entering the 8th.
With two outs in the bottom of the 8th, HU was able to plate a pair off a walk and an RBI single by Steven Morse, cutting the deficit to three entering the ninth.
With one out in the 9th, Alex Grove singled up the middle to plate Joey Rydzewski to make it 6-4. After a walk to Eric Monroe, Austin Fleming grounded out to first, driving in one more run to make it a 6-5 game with two outs. The Montclair State reliever, who had struggled with control throughout his entire time on the mound, gave Heidelberg the tying run during the next batter, throwing a wild pitch that allowed Derek Hug to score to tie the game and force extra innings.
Travis Gray entered the game on the mount for the Berg in the top of the 10th, shutting down MSU to send it to the bottom of the frame tied.
Morse led off the bottom half by crushing a double to deep left-center, giving the Berg just what they needed to start. Doug Miller came in the game to pinch run for Morse and promptly advanced to 3rd base on a failed pickoff attempt. Verde came through big for the Student Princes in the ensuing at-bat driving a single up the middle to score Miller and give the Berg a walk-off victory.
Kyle Fluharty was the starter for Heidelberg in the game, going 6.1 innings while giving up six runs, all earned, and striking out two. Freshman Jordan Watson entered in relief after Fluharty and turned in 2.2 solid innings, giving up just three hits and no runs during his time. Gray finished off the game for the Student Princes, earning the win in his first appearance on the year.
Game two against St. John Fisher opened up similar to game one, as the two teams entered the third inning in a scoreless tie. After the Cardinals opened the scoring with a run in the top of the third, Heidelberg answered when Rydzewski scored on a balk to tie the game.
St. John Fisher answered right back in the top of the fourth, however, scoring a pair to take a 3-1 lead. That lead held until the eighth inning, as starter Stephen Lewis continued to work out of trouble for the Cardinals.
Facing another late-game deficit, Heidelberg put together an impressive rally in the bottom of the eighth. Morse singled to open the frame, with Miller entering to pinch run just like game one. After a pair of fly-outs, Heidelberg had just a runner on first with two outs, but that was where the fun began.
Rydzewski reached after the Cardinals' catcher overthrew first base, allowing him to advance to third while Miller scored to cut the deficit to one. The next batter, Evan Long, promptly doubled to right center to score Rydzewski, tying up the game. After a pitching change by St. John Fisher, Long stole third and scored off another error by the catcher, giving HU their first lead.
Not stopping there, three straight doubles off the bats of Grove, Hug, and Monroe scored two more runs to give Heidelberg a 6-3 lead entering the ninth.
Sophomore Derek Hendrixson came on to close the game and did just that, working out of a situation with runners on first and second to cap off the victory. He earned his first save of the season in his second inning pitched on the year.
Junior Steve Huber had a solid day on the mound, pitching to contact while lasting eight innings on the mound. He gave up just three runs on the day, giving up seven hits and two walks while striking out a pair, throwing just 94 pitches in his eight innings to earn the win in his first start of the season.
On the day, Hug led the way on offense for the Berg with five hits in eight at-bats, making his batting average .667 on the young season. Long went 4-for-8 on the day with two stolen bases while Morse was 3-for-7 with one double. Verde had two hits on the day, but they were both big, as his home run and game-winning single made the difference against Montclair St.
Head coach Chad Fitzgerald on the pair of close wins: "It's nerve-racking, that's for sure. I thought both of our starters in both games gave us great opportunities. Fluharty went 6-plus and Huber goes 8 strong, and we should win those games. It's good to see the offense come around at the end, but you don't want too many of those or your blood pressure is gonna rise."
Fitzgerald on being confident even though they trailed near the end of both games: "The whole mentality that we take is the next pitch, doesn't matter what the situation or where we're at in the game. It's not over until the end, so our guys are going to keep playing hard, it's something we preached through the whole winter process and the fall."
Fitzgerald on Hendrixson closing out game two: "It's a nice insurance policy to have. He goes in there and he competes. That's probably his biggest attribute, that he's a competitor."
Heidelberg will be back on the diamond tomorrow, March 10th, when they take on Wabash at 2:00 p.m. in Port Charlotte, Florida.