Magical Senior Day sealed with 13th inning walkoff

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – For the third straight year, Grace’s baseball team ended Senior Day with a walkoff victory.

The Lancers (8-31, 8-16 Crossroads League) completed a series sweep of Mt. Vernon Nazarene on Saturday with a 7-0, 9-8 set of wins.

The final game of the day stretched to 13 innings before Cameron Maxwell’s ground ball allowed Jaron Mullett to score the winning run, sending Grace’s players spilling onto the field in celebration.

Saturday, a windy and chilly afternoon, was filled with heroic senior moments for the graduating class of Austin Baker, William Swisher, Kyle Brunner and Josh Tew.

In the opener, Tew was the hero. Tew threw his first career shutout in a dominating performance over the Cougars (21-24, 10-17 CL). He struck out 10 batters while allowing just four hits and a walk.

Grace cruised to a 7-0 victory thanks to Tew’s pitching. The Lancers scored their first runs of the game in the second inning.

Grace had runners on first and second with two outs when Ethan Brooks singled to score David Anderson. Aggressive baserunning by Grace plated two more runs later to give the Lancers a 3-0 lead.

Grace added another run to its lead in the third courtesy of a sac-fly by Mullett, and Baker’s two-run double put the Lancers ahead 6-0.

Meanwhile, Tew continued to throw a gem on the mound. After the third inning, Tew retired nine straight Cougar hitters.

The Lancers added another run in the fifth inning after an RBI single by Maxwell to give Grace its final run of the game. Tew allowed a double in the seventh, but the runner was forced to stay put as Tew kept the four-hit shutout intact.

Maxwell led the offense with 3 hits, 2 RBIs and 1 run scored. Hunter Ackerman and Brooks had two hits each, and Baker added two RBIs to the cause in game one.

In the second game, Grace needed to rally on three separate occasions to secure the series sweep. MVNU pulled ahead 5-1 after the top of the sixth, but the Lancers tied the game with a four-run sixth.

Mullett and Spencer Mason plated in the sixth thanks to their speed on the base paths, and Baker tied the score with a two-out, two-run homer to left field.

The Cougars scored two more in the top of the seventh, and Grace still faced a 7-5 hole entering its final at-bats.

But in the bottom of the ninth, Grace rallied again. Houston Haney doubled and Anderson singled to put the tying runs on base. Haney scored after a ground ball from Swisher, and Anderson made the score 7-7 after a sacrifice fly by Mitchell Enyart.

MVNU tried to end the game with another run in the 10th, but again Grace showed its resilience to tie the score. The first two batters in the inning were retired for the Lancers, but Haney walked on the next at-bat. Anderson then produced a clutch double deep to the outfield, and Haney raced home to send the game into even more extra innings.

In the bottom of the 13th, Mullett reached base with a walk. He moved to third thanks to a hit batsman and an errant throw by the Cougars. That set the stage for Maxwell’s walkoff moment as his grounder proved too hard for MVNU’s second baseman to handle.

Brunner displayed a yeoman’s effort on the mound. Typically the team’s closer, Brunner was forced to throw a starter’s load as the game progressed into extra innings. He finished the game by throwing the final five innings with 110 pitches. He allowed only one run to score with six strikeouts.

Jordan Noska and Jacob Hammel were also effective in relief for Grace, setting the stage for Brunner’s memorable performance.

Baker was 3-for-6 from the plate with a run and two RBIs, and Anderson was 3-for-7. Haney plated three times and had two hits and two stolen bases, and Mullett had two hits and two runs.

The Lancers end the regular season with two more home dates. Grace hosts Taylor on Monday at 3 p.m. and Bethel on Tuesday at 1 p.m.