Final at-bat victory closes HCAC thriller

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NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – Manchester University's steady climb up the 2017 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings continued with a little bit of late-inning heroics Friday, April 7.

The Spartans, winning for the fifth time in its last seven league attempts, rallied from a 3-2 deficit through six-and-a-half frames behind a crucial sacrifice bunt RBI by junior designated hitter Alec Trzeciak (Charlotte, Mich.) in the bottom of the seventh and the second of two home runs off the bat of freshman catcher Joe Gallatin (Muncie, Ind.) in the bottom of the eighth for a pivotal weekend series opening 4-3 victory over preseason loop favorite Earlham College. Coach Rick Espeset's crew's thrilling decision in front of better than 100 happy fans at Gratz Field moved the Black and Gold (8-13 overall, 5-4 HCAC) into a three-way tie for second, just a game and a half behind conference leaders Franklin College.

Gallatin's second multiple-round tripper game of the season, increasing his personal hit streak to 12 and moving him into a tie for the league lead in big flies, wasn't the only story line on a crisp early spring evening. Junior starting pitcher Brandon Eck (Fort Wayne, Ind.) battled returning all-HCAC hurler Howie Smith tooth and nail over the first seven innings, surrendering only three hits and three earned runs during the span. Senior Cory Ferguson (Fort Wayne, Ind.), as has been his penchant, stepped out of the bullpen, facing six batters in the eighth and ninth with two strikeouts to earn his fourth win of the year.

Manchester University's weekend set against the Quakers continues Saturday, April 8, with a pair of nine-inning games beginning at 12 p.m.