Senior Day ends in walkoff win
WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace College’s baseball team seems to save its dramatics for Senior Day.
In a near replica from last year’s Senior Day, the Lancers won again in walkoff fashion, this time at the expense of Goshen on Saturday.
After dropping the opening game 4-0 to the Maple Leafs, Grace ended the day on a euphoric note with a 7-6 win in the 11th inning.
Senior Shay Hepler scored the winning run in extra innings. He started the 11th inning with a triple off the outfield fence.
Goshen seemed poised to escape after striking out the next two batters, but Austin Baker laced a two-out double over the centerfielder’s head to win the game and send the Lancers’ bench spilling out onto the field in celebration.
The win also marks Grace’s first series win during Crossroads League play since taking 3-of-4 from Goshen in March 2015.
In the opening game, Grace’s bats were unable to get piece together a run in a 4-0 shutout. The Lancers (15-26-1, 7-17 CL) did manage to produce eight hits, including two doubles, but Grace could not generate any runs.
In the third inning, Gabe Douglass led off with a double but was stranded there with three straight putouts. Grace also put a runner on second base in the fourth and sixth innings without plating a run.
The final at-bats for the Lancers saw Jason Stevens and Cameron Maxwell single on consecutive at-bats. But a double play and a fly out quickly eliminated that threat and ended the game.
Xavier Harris was a perfect 3-for-3. Joe Dougherty pitched five innings on his Senior Day, allowing three runs to score with five strikeouts.
Grace’s offense found its stride to start game two. Goshen plated twice in the top of the first inning, but the Lancers countered with two of their own.
Gavin Bussard walked, and Harris parked a two-out, two-run home run to left field. Harris’s homer was his 11th of the season, setting a single-season record for Grace.
The first batter of the second inning was Stevens. The senior first baseman belted a 3-2 pitch to left field for his first career home run.
The Lancers’ assault continued in the second with three more runs. Bussard, Hunter Ackerman and Harris all had RBI singles in the inning to put Grace ahead 6-2.
But the Maple Leafs (22-25-1, 10-14 CL) fought back as Grace’s bats went cold over the middle innings. Goshen tacked on one run in the third and three more in the fifth to tie the game at 6-6.
The game remarkably remained at 6-6 for the next five innings. Aaron Voirol and Scottie Clark pitched impressive stints in relief to keep the Maple Leafs off the scoreboard.
Voirol tossed two innings without allowing a hit, and Clark allowed just one hit over the final four innings to get the win.
Grace nearly won the game in regulation at the bottom of the ninth. Ackerman singled and was bunted to second. But a double play snuffed out Grace’s threat.
Clark blanked Goshen in the 10th and 11th innings, setting the stage for Austin Baker’s memorable game-winning swing.
Harris batted 3-for-4 with three RBIs, and Bussard was 2-for-4 with two runs. Logan Grigsby struck out seven in five innings as the starter, and Ackerman and Stevens each had two hits.
Grace’s graduating class of Chase Baker, Blake Converset, Dougherty, Grigsby, Hepler, Stevens and Matthew Warren were honored after the doubleheader for Senior Day.
The Lancers take a short break from league play on Monday, hosting Judson for a 2 p.m. doubleheader at Miller Athletic Complex. The regular season will end next weekend at Taylor with a three-game series.