The Kalamazoo College Baseball team finished regular season play this past week, playing their final MIAA series of the year against the Calvin College. The Hornets entered the weekend tied for the school record for wins in an MIAA season, and were one win away from clinching a playoff spot in the MIAA tournament.
The team began the weekend series at home on Friday. Sophomore ace Ryan Orr looked to lead them to victory on the mound, and clinch the playoff berth and school record on day one of the series. It looked as if the Hornets would do so too, as they took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning on an RBI single from sophomore Josh Reuter. The Knights responded quickly though, when junior Colton Wolfe blasted a two-run home run to put Calvin on top 2-1. K would reply in the bottom half of the inning to even the game, as junior David Kracht drove in fellow junior Ian Kobernick on a sacrifice fly. Wolfe was not satisfied with just one big fly though, and when he came to the plate in the seventh, he put the Knights on top for good 3-2 with his second home run of the day.
In game two, the rest of the Calvin bats woke up, piling on ten runs, including two three run innings. The Hornet offense doubled their run total from the first game, scoring four runs, but fell 10-4 in the end.
Still looking to clinch their spot in the playoffs, the Hornets traveled to Grand Rapids, Mich. on Saturday for the second day of the series. Coach Mike Ott turned to junior starter Nic Janssen on the mound, and Janssen was up to the task.
The junior tossed 5 and 2/3 innings, allowing three runs, but only after K had plated four runs of their own. K started the scoring in the second inning, on a sacrifice fly from junior Brett Garwood. The Hornets added three more in the third, the first of which was created by first year Jordan Wiley, who stole third base, and came home on an errant throw by the Calvin catcher.
Sophomore Connor Grant then drove in two more on an RBI single. Coach Ott then turned to first year Scott Zychowski to finish what Janssen started, and the first year hurler delivered. He threw 1 and 1/3 innings of hitless baseball to earn the save, and clinch the playoff berth for the Hornets.
In game two, both teams’ bats came to life, and only through four innings K found themselves behind 7-5. The Hornet offense did not stop there though, adding one run in the sixth, followed by three in the top of the eighth to give them a 9-8 lead.
Calvin put the pressure back on Kalamazoo though, scoring three of their own in the bottom half of the inning to regain an 11-9 lead. K would not go away that easy though, loading the bases with two outs in the top of the ninth, setting the table for junior cleanup hitter Mitch VanKoevering, who became the second Hornet batter to be hit by a pitch in the inning, cutting the lead to 11-10. Next up was Kracht, who fought to a full count before drawing the game tying walk. Kalamazoo continued to score in extra innings, adding five in the 10th on hits by Orr, junior Jack Clark, and VanKoevering to put them on top for good 16-11.
The two wins on Saturday not only clinched the Hornets a playoff spot in the MIAA tournament, but also set records for wins in a season (21), and MIAA wins in a season (17).
The Hornets will travel to Adrian to begin MIAA tournament play as the 4 seed later this week. Kalamazoo was the only team to beat the Bulldogs twice this season, and will look to do so again to extend their season in hopes of winning the MIAA and reaching the NCAA tournament.