Franklin, IN – The Transylvania baseball team experienced an afternoon of ups and downs as they battled the Franklin Grizzlies to the brink but ultimately came away with a winless afternoon at the hands of the home team on Saturday.
Game two of the series and the first of the day was a rough go for the Pioneers, who fell 10-0 to Franklin as the Grizzlies exacted a measure of revenge for their late-game meltdown the previous night.
The game was a defensive tussle through the first three innings as Transylvania starter Adam Boone worked through innings one through three with a high level of efficiency. But starting in the fourth inning, Franklin began gradually carving out a lead with two runs in the fourth inning, another in the fifth, and seven more in the sixth and seventh innings.
Franklin did not waste their opportunities as they tallied 10 runs on 14 hits, eventually escorting the starter Boone out of the game after 5.1 innings of work. The Pioneers crafted three hits in Saturday's first Saturday game with the number two hitter Patrick Dragan, team batting average leader Trey Simpson, and senior Hunter Jones providing offensive opportunities.
Franklin's starter Christian Sullivan went the distance, and it allowed Franklin to pack away all their artillery for the second game of the day.
Game two of the afternoon and the final game of the series took a decidedly different tone than the 10-run victory for Franklin as the Pioneers found the offense that was in short supply in Game one.
Transylvania starter Braden Johnsen matched Sullivan's game one performance as he pitched the full length of the ballgame doing all he could to keep the Pios in the thick of the contest, dishing seven strikeouts and zero walks.
Franklin continued their momentum from game one with two prompt runs in the bottom of the first. But unlike Game one, the bats clicked soon thereafter for the Pioneers, who matched Franklin with two runs in the top of the second. A lead-off single by shortstop Jared Williams and subsequent steal placed him in scoring position at second base, and Kody Ross drew a one-out walk to put two Pioneers on base. With two down for Transylvania, Gage Beavers delivered a single to drive in Ross and Williams from second and third to tie the game and signal the Pioneers were potentially ready to reprise their theatrics from the day before.
After an inning of scoreless ball for the Pios and Grizzlies, Franklin answered with two more runs in the bottom of the third inning on an RBI single, and tacked another run in the sixth inning to build a 5-2 advantage.
With time ticking against the Pioneers, they began to devise a comeback plan in the top of the seventh. With one out, Ross manufactured a double, but a Pioneers strikeout to quickly reach a two-out situation. But the Pios shifted into an aggressive strategy, utilizing a hit-and-run by Beavers that paid off as Ross made his way to home and scored. Simpson then followed with a timely single that drove in Beavers after Dragan had reached base on an E6, making the game a 5-4 Franklin lead.
The Pioneers continued their push as the game shifted into the ninth inning. Again, the Pioneers waited to strike until the levels of drama reached their highest apex. The first two Transylvania batters of the ninth inning were quickly retired, and Franklin was on the cusp of a certain victory.
But Simpson kept the game alive with a two-out single, then stole second as he did the previous day in a clutch situation to provide the Pioneers with a game-tying opportunity. However, instead of coming home on a game-tying hit, Simpson instead made his way towards third, and then came home on a throwing error by Franklin's catcher who unsuccessfully tried to perform a pick-off of the Transylvania baserunner. The Pioneers tied the game at 5 and the game headed to the bottom of the ninth looking to send the game into extra innings and complete the game in inspiring fashion as they did the previous night.
But Franklin had other plans as they matched Transylvania's two-out rally in the top of the ninth with a two-out moment of their own. First baseman Frank Podkul came through with his third hit of the game and was replaced by pinch runner Nick Brems who then immediately stole second base. Franklin outfielder Chase Steinbrunner then came through with the clutch moment of the afternoon, delivering a base hit that brought home Brems for a game-winning run and the stunning 6-5 result.
Transylvania moves to 6-10 overall, and 1-2 in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play after the weekend.
The Pioneers return home for Easter Sunday before a quick journey up the road to Florence, Kentucky at UC Health Stadium to face conference foe Mount St. Joseph on Tuesday, March 29. The pitch is set for 4:30 p.m.