Lexington, KY – The 2016 Senior Day for the Transylvania baseball team was one to remember at Marquard Field.
On Saturday the Pioneers paid tribute to six impactful seniors before going on to split their final doubleheader of the regular season with the Bluffton Beavers, falling by a run in Game One, 7-6 before rebounding with a stout 10-2 victory in Game Two.
By capturing the final game of their Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference schedule, the Pioneers finished at 17-9 in conference play, good for second place in the conference standings.
Sealing up the No. 2 seed in the upcoming HCAC Tournament scheduled to begin next Thursday, the Pioneers prepare to enter a first-round matchup with the Earlham Quakers on Thursday in the first round of the HCAC Baseball Tournament.
In capturing two of three wins against Bluffton to close the regular season, the Pioneers put the finishing touches upon the best conference run in program history since 2008, when Transy won the regular season title in the HCAC.
Saturday afternoon began with an acknowledgement of seniors Kameron Schwartz, Matt Birkenhauer, Hunter Jones, Kody Ross, Rex Rogers, and Trey Simpson before a crucial series for the Pioneers resumed against Bluffton.
Nearing the end of Game Two of their series with Bluffton, Transylvania found themselves trying to replicate the achievements of their Friday tussle with the Beavers when they won 5 to 4 on a walkoff RBI by Connor Blevins.
Instead, the Pioneers dropped the first game of Saturday afternoon to the Beavers when two Transy batters struck out with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.
The ill effects of Saturday's opener didn't stick with Transylvania long as the Pioneers began building towards a series victory.
While Bluffton posted a run in the opening half-inning of the game, Transylvania answered with four runs in the bottom of the first. A Kody Ross groundout with two runners on tied the game at 1-1. After a timely triple by Taylor Henley that scored Connor Blevins for a 2-1 lead, the first baseman scored afterwards on a wild pitch, raising the Pioneers' lead to 3-1. Hunter Jones got on base with a walk, and catcher Gage Beavers came up with a double to score Jones for a 4-1 lead after one inning of play.
After the exclamatory first inning, the Pios zoomed ahead for the rest of the afternoon, adding one run in the bottom of the second inning via an RBI single by Daniel Seitzinger to score senior Aaron Johnson from third base for a 5-1 Transylvania cushion.
Bluffton placed a second run on the board in the top of the fourth, but Transylvania piled on more runs in the bottom half of the inning. Ross and Blevins each reached base with corresponding singles and Henley drove them in with a base hit. Rogers later drove in Henley to add to the theatrics for Transylvania, who led 7-2 after four innings.
The game became a senior celebration as another graduate-in-waiting Schwartz blasted a home run for a 9-2 lead. His senior cohort Jones hit an RBI single later in the inning to finish off the 10-run game for the Pioneers.
Transylvania outhit Bluffton 15-5 in the second game of the doubleheader and won the series by taking two of three victories.
Blevins led the way in Game Two with a 3-for-3 day at the plate, adding a walk. Henley followed suit, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Jones also gathered two runs while Rogers brought forth considerable damage with three hits and an RBI from the eighth spot in the order.
In total, all six seniors combined for eight hits in the final win of the day to cap off their Marquard Field careers with lasting memories.
A critical opportunity now awaits the Transylvania seniors and their underclassmen teammates, who are all headed to Terre Haute, Indiana for what hopes to be a three-day tournament hosted by the Rose-Hulman, the No. 1 seed in the tournament.
The four team conference tournament sports the No. 1 seed Rose-Hulman Engineers, the No. 2 seed Pioneers, the No. 3 seed Quakers who surpassed Manchester in the standings on the final day of conference play, and No. 4 seed Manchester.
Transylvania commences the 2016 HCAC Tournament against Earlham on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. in Terre Haute. The winner of the four-team tournament will be awarded the automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament.
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