Hanover, IN – Trailing 5-1 deep into the contest, the Transylvania baseball team stormed back with five runs in the final two innings to stun the Hanover Panthers, 6-5.
With the midweek matchup constituting the 2016 conference opener for both teams, the Pioneers began their conference campaign in style, improving to 1-0 in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play after the comeback.
Cleanup hitter Trey Simpson led the way hitting 2-for-3 on the day with a walk and two RBIs. Pitcher Matt Birkenhauer allowed zero earned runs from the fifth through the eighth inning to keep Transylvania within striking distance and earn the win.
The Pioneers scored the first run of the game in the third inning and the final five runs of the ballgame. The host Panthers did all their scoring in innings three through five, posting two runs each in both the third and fourth innings.
Transylvania's first run came as the result of much toil. With two outs, the Pioneers finally loaded the bases after a Kody Ross single and ensuing stolen base, a Rex Rogers single, and an endured hit-by-pitch by Jared Williams. In a bases loaded situation, Trey Simpson became the second in three batters to be hit by a pitch to score the first run of the game.
Hanover then used three key singles over the next two innings to respond with a 4-1 lead and retire starter Tom Banahan from the game. The Panthers used a Tyler Fitch left field RBI double to grow the lead to 5-1 in the fifth inning with two outs and the home team looked comfortable as they continued to cruise through innings with relative ease.
But late in the game, the Transylvania bats woke up and momentum violently shifted back towards the direction of the crimson.
With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Williams powered a triple into left field to stoke some hope into the Pioneers' dugout. The passions quickly ignited Hunter Jones followed with a single to drive home Williams and bring the Pioneers within three runs. Taylor Henley caught the bug as he followed Jones's single with a base hit of his own to put two aboard for the Pioneers. After a pitching change for Hanover, Blake Hart was walked to load the bases.
His team needing a magical moment, Kody Ross delivered a single through the left side to score Jones from third base. Patrick Dragan then grounded out to second base to retire Ross, but Henley scored on the play to suddenly make it a 5-4 score in favor of Hanover. The Panthers escaped the inning without yielding the lead but the tenor of the game had changed.
A revitalized Transylvania squad quickly retired the side in the bottom of the eighth with a conventional series of battles won by the long reliever Birkenhauer, and the Pioneers were quickly up to bat again in the top of the ninth.
The Panthers inserted closer Kellen Otto to try and shut down the Pioneers for a would-be 5-4 win but Transylvania had other plans.
Leading off the ninth, Williams came through with his only hit of the game, a triple to present the tying run. Connor Blevins grounded out to bring Hanover within two runs of victory, but Simpson knocked in his second hit of the day with a base hit single up the middle to plate Williams and tie the game at 5-5.
Jones then flew out to center field for the second out, making Hanover one out away from salvaging a tie to head into the bottom of the ninth. But Simpson went for the kill, stealing second with Taylor Henley up to bat. Henley then finished the job, smacking a single into left field as Simpson rounded for home and scored to complete Transylvania's wild comeback.
The Pioneers now ventured to the bottom of the ninth needing three defensive outs of their own to secure a win. Kameron Schwartz came in for Transylvania to close business, but the Hanover lineup proved to be an unwilling crowd.
Hanover's Travis Thompson lead off the inning with a walk, and then was replaced by pinch-runner Josh Meszaros. Schwartz induced batter David Herrman into a groundout to get out Meszaros at second. Schwartz enticed his next batter into a similar result, and the Pioneers found themselves with one out needed for a win. But Hanover immediately by hitting a single and drawing a walk, and the bases were loaded.
With the Panthers awaiting a game-winning hit, Schwartz dealt a prime pitch to Jack Shine who swung and delivered the ball high into centerfield, straight into the glove of one of the inning's offensive heroes, Trey Simpson to finish the game and a memorable Transy comeback.
The Pioneers moved to 4-5 on the road and extinguished a six-game losing streak with the stirring win against Hanover. Schwartz claimed his first save of the season while Birkenhauer achieved his first pitching win in 2016.
The Pioneers continue their early conference season on the road, as they next venture to Franklin, Indiana for a three-game series with the Grizzlies beginning Friday, March 25. First pitch is set for 4:13 p.m. with a doubleheader to follow on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. before the Pioneers retire home for the rest of the Easter weekend.
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