Terre Haute, Ind. – The Transylvania baseball team unleashed a season-high 21 hits to open up the 2019 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament, but an eight-run second inning by the Defiance College Yellow Jackets proved pivotal as Defiance won 16-8 over the Pioneers in the tournament opener on Thursday afternoon at Art Nehf Field.
Returning to the conference tournament for the first time in three seasons, the Pioneers did not tarry long in ringing up the scoreboard as their tournament wait came to an end. The Pioneers tabbed runs in each of the first two innings to grab an early 2-0 lead.
Defiance turned the tide in their favor in the bottom of the second inning with an eight-run outpouring to secure a lead that would stand for the rest of the afternoon.
Despite the six-run deficit, the Pioneers carved away at Defiance for the rest of the afternoon as the teams combined for 41 hits in the first game of Thursday's three-game tournament slate on the campus of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
The No. 4 seed Yellow Jackets staved off a mid-game push by the Pioneers to seal up the win and advance to a game later today versus No. 1 seed and tournament host, Rose-Hulman. The No. 5 seed Pioneers will take on the loser of No. 3 Anderson and No. 2 Franklin tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. in an elimination game.
Riley Willbur led off the day for the Pioneers with a double to right centerfield and later made his way to third base. The leadoff hit sparked a potent day for Willbur in which the junior matched his career high with five hits on a 5-for-6 day at the plate.
Hudson Chastain, the HCAC regular-season hits leader, speared a single into right field to score Willbur for a 1-0 Transy lead. The Pioneers increased their lead by a run in the top of the second on an RBI single from Austin Butts to bring Wade Lopiccolo across home plate.
Defiance took control of the game in the bottom of the second with five straight singles to plate their first three runs of the game, all of which came unearned after an infielding error. The Yellow Jackets plated two more runners with one out on a two-run double that retired Transy starter Collin Johnson from the mound. Defiance added three more runs on a home run before reliever Luke Wilson retired the final two batters, concluding a two-inning frame that saw both teams combine for 14 hits.
Though Defiance held a 10 to 4 hit advantage after two innings, Transylvania recorded the next seven hits of the afternoon as the fight continued. Lopiccolo scored in the top of the fourth inning on a sacrifice fly RBI from T.J. Keck to cut Defiance's lead to 8-3 while Wilson retired the side in the third and fourth innings. The Yellow Jackets responded again with another three-run homer in the bottom of the fifth as they secured an 11-3 advantage.
The Pioneers produced three runs in the top of the sixth as Keck drove in Devyn Wilson-Cowan on an RBI single. The Pioneers loaded the bases and Chastain drew a walk for the second run of the inning. An infield single by Lopiccolo scored the final run of the inning to cut Defiance's lead to 11-6.
The Yellow Jackets hit back with five more runs over the next two innings to put the game out of reach. Blaine Major provided an RBI double in the seventh inning and Keck hit one over the fence in the ninth for two final runs by Transylvania but the early lead created by Defiance was sufficient.
Despite the loss, numerous Pioneers had busy offensive days as the team kept up a string of six double-digit hitting games in its last seven contests.
Willbur led a group of four Pioneers who each tallied three hits or more on the afternoon. Trey Medford went 3-for-6, Lopiccolo went 3-for-5 with his fourth triple of the year, and Wilson-Cowan went 3-for-5 with two runs. Of Willbur's five hits, three were doubles.
The Pioneers' overall record stands at 16-23 for 2019 while Defiance improves to 22-14-1 as each team looks ahead to their next HCAC Tournament contests.
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