April 5 2018
The Wheaton Thunder Baseball team opened up conference play this weekend with a string of five games across four days. The team dropped both of their games in the opening series against North Central College last Wednesday, but bounced back to win their weekend series against Augustana two games to one. In all, the Thunder were 2-3 over the weekend, moving their overall record to 11-9 and their conference record to 2-3.
The opening series against the North Central College Cardinals did not go as planned for the Thunder, who were on the losing end of both games. Game one was lopsided, with Wheaton falling 10-0, while game two was another tough loss by the score of 8-2.
In the first game, North Central scored 10 runs on 12 hits while Wheaton managed zero runs on five hits. The game was scoreless through the first two innings, but North Central broke the tie with a three-run third inning, and it was all downhill from there for the Thunder. Three Wheaton errors in the fourth inning resulted in five runs for North Central, four of which were unearned. Defensive miscues again came back to haunt the Thunder in the seventh inning, when an error, an HBP and a wild pitch resulted in North Central’s final two runs.
Wheaton had runners in scoring position in the first, second, fourth and sixth innings, but was unable to advance any runners past third base, resulting in the 10-0 loss.
Game two was equally as dismal, as North Central jumped on the Thunder with five runs in the first inning, chasing freshman starter Sam Arnold before the inning was over. The Cardinals added another run in the second to bring the score to 6-0 through two innings.
After two scoreless innings on both sides, Wheaton looked to make a run in the top of the fifth when they loaded the bases with two outs. Senior Seth Meyer and junior Nick Mailman had both singled and freshman Jesse Welch was hit by a pitch before a grounder by junior Ben Brittain was mishandled by the North Central shortstop and allowed Meyer and Mailman to score.
These would be the Thunder’s only runs of the game, but the Cardinals would add two more in the seventh inning on two errors by the Thunder to bring the final score to 8-2.
After two tough losses in Naperville, the Thunder looked to start off their series against the Augustana Vikings with a win, but they were unsuccessful, falling to Augustana in a close game 8-6. Wheaton scored first in the fifth inning with three runs, but Augustana’s back-to-back four-run innings in the fifth and sixth gave them too big of a lead for the Thunder to overcome. Even after Wheaton added three more runs in the eighth, Augustana was able to hold them off through the end of the game and emerge with the 8-6 win.
One bright side of the game was that the Thunder bats looked to come back to life after two quiet games. Eight of Wheaton’s starters contributed to their eleven total hits, while freshman Jacob Garrity led the way with three hits and two RBIs.
Games two and three proved more advantageous for the Thunder, as they were able to overcome their game one loss and respond with two wins to take the series overall. In the second game, Wheaton was the team that came out hot first, scoring five runs and forcing the Augustana starter out of the game before one out could be recorded in the first inning.
It was Augustana, however, who was more consistent out of the gate, scoring three runs in the first inning, four in the second and one in the third to get out to an early 8-5 lead. Augustana’s next and last three runs of the game came in the bottom of the sixth, and were all unearned, but Wheaton had begun their rally in the top of the sixth, and it was a rally that would span three innings and result in nine runs.
Two runs apiece for Wheaton in the sixth and seventh innings brought the score to 11-9, still in Augustana’s favor, but in the eighth inning the Thunder would take the lead to finish the game. Five hits and two walks, including a three-RBI double by junior Clay Morrison, gave Wheaton five runs in the inning, enough to bring the score to 14-11, where it would stay, as senior reliever Nick Johnson shut down the Vikings in the bottom of the ninth.
Game three was the closest game of the series, with Wheaton coming out on top in the 7-6 nailbiter. Augustana scored two runs in the top of the first, but Wheaton responded with three of their own in the bottom of the frame, getting one when freshman Joel Pierce drew a walk with the bases loaded, and two more when Meyer’s single to left field brought in Morrison and senior Johnny Peltz.
Augustana added two more runs in the next two innings to give themselves the 4-3 lead, but Wheaton would regain that lead in the bottom of the fifth when Peltz hit his first homerun of the season, a two-run blast that brought in Brittain. Augustana, however, fought their way back in the sixth with two runs on a steal of home and an RBI triple, bringing the score to 6-5.
In the bottom of the seventh, Pierce, representing the tying run, scored on a wild pitch and then Garrity singled home Meyer for the final run of the game. Junior reliever Luke Kram took care of the Vikings from the mound in the eighth, and Johnson came in in the ninth to turn out the lights on the series, allowing no runs or hits to give Wheaton the 7-6 victory.
Wheaton’s game against Millikin University, originally scheduled for April 3, has now been postponed until further notice due to inclement weather. As a result, Wheaton will continue conference play against Illinois Wesleyan College, whom they will face in a three-game series beginning on Thursday, April 5, and finishing on Saturday, April 7. Game one will be played on Thursday at 1 p.m. in Bloomington, Ill., and then the Thunder will return home to Lee Pfund Stadium in Carol Stream for games two and three, which will be played on Saturday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.