By Matthew Digiacomo
CNHI News Service
It looked like a sweep was in order ... then it wasn’t, and was, and wasn’t again.
Basically, it was a crazy Saturday afternoon at Allegheny College’s Robertson Athletic Complex as the Gators hosted DePauw for the first two games of a three-game North Coast Athletic Conference Crossover Series. The teams split Saturday’s doubleheader. The Tigers rallied for a 6-4 win in the opener, while Allegheny returned the favor in the nightcap for a 3-2 victory.
“It was big focusing and trying to have good at bats,” said Gators head coach Kelly Swiney. “We had to stay aggressive and take advantage of hitter’s counts. It finally worked out for us in the end.”
Midway through the first game, things looked completely different.
After a pair of one-out walks and a fielder’s choice, the Gators used a little trickery to take a 1-0 lead. Ben Murray took off for second and purposely got caught in a rundown. While DePauw tried to get the sophomore for the third out, Zach Gray motored home with the first run.
In the fourth, Mike Pezzone’s one-out double drove in Joe Killian for a 2-0 lead. One out later, Frank Triozzi made it 3-0 with an RBI single to score Pezzone.
DePauw finally got on the board in the fifth. Cory Maxeiner roped a one-out double, advanced on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to 3-1. Allegheny answered right back as Ben Kirchler and Kyle Davis singled to open the bottom of the inning. Kirchler soon scored on an error to put the Gators back up by three (4-1).
Allegheny then found out just how fickle momentum can be.
“(Kyle Davis) has been our ace the last two years,” said Swiney. “Teams have got some hits and runs off him, but in three years I have never seen him struggle with the strike zone like he did in that inning.”
That struggle came in the sixth inning for Allegheny’s ace.
After getting the first batter to fly out, the strike zone suddenly disappeared. The next seven batters all reached base, only one with the use of a bat. Davis walked four and hit two others. The end result: Four runs on one hit, no errors and three left on base. The Tigers’ Connor Einertson drove in Robbie Stein in the seventh for insurance.
“We just couldn’t get a strike,” said Swiney. “We had a chance, we just couldn’t come through. (DePauw) really didn’t hit him, but that wild inning and our inability to capitalize. ... It just didn’t happen for us.”
The nightcap went the other direction.
The Gators took the early lead as Mike Kastelic reached on an error. One batter later it was 1-0 as Killian roped an RBI double to center. It was the first big hit of the game for Killian, who showed no signs of being a freshman playing in the biggest game of his career.
“(Killian) has been doing it all year now,” said Game 2 starting pitcher Eric Brandt. “Getting on base, getting people in. He is a real good ball player and, being a freshman, it’s amazing right now.”
Despite Killian’s early heroics, the momentum stayed with DePauw.
The Gators just could not get the bats on track. Through the first seven innings, the home squad managed just two more hits, stranded three runners and never seriously threatened to add to its tally.
Meanwhile, DePauw tied the game in the third as Zach Galyean drove in Matt Dorsett with an RBI single. The Tigers took the lead in the sixth — again — as Einertson cracked a double to drive in Stein.
However, Brandt would not let his team go quietly.
“I just took it like another normal game,” said Brandt. “I took the pitching charts for (Kyle) Davis in the first game, so I knew how to pitch everyone. We have different styles, but I had a good idea of in and out, up and down in the strike zone.”
As good as the DePauw pitching was, Brandt was even better. He pitched all nine innings, allowed six hits and walked just two while striking out six. Of the two runs he surrendered, only one was earned. In time, his teammates repaid him for his effort.
With an out in the bottom of the eighth, Davis was hit by a pitch to put the tying run on first. But the next batter grounded out, putting Davis on second.
It was DePauw’s turn to find out about momentum.
Kastelic made contact on a 2-1 pitch and sent a high fly into the outfield just over third base.
DePauw left fielder Stein covered the distance with ease. But when the ball hit his glove, it popped out for an error. Davis took off on contact and never slowed to score the tying run. Killian then stepped to the plate and cracked a double to left center, driving in Kastelic with the go-ahead run.
“I think you want the approach to be the same each at-bat,” said Killian. “I just looked for a pitch and tried to hit it hard. Both (doubles) were fastballs and good hitter’s counts. I try to drive the ball on fastball counts.”
With the lead in his pocket, Brandt worked out of one last jam in the ninth to cap the win.
Killian had a monster day at the plate, going 3-for-7 with two doubles, a run and two RBIs. Davis went 3-for-5 in the opener, while Triozzi was 2-for-4. Pezzone doubled in the first game.
Stein, Einertson and Maxeiner each had three hits for DePauw.
Game three of the three-game series is today back at the Robertson Athletic Complex. Game time is set for noon.
“(Today) is a big team effort,” said Killian. “We feel as a team we can play with anybody and we can beat anybody. We need to pitch well and hit the ball.
“It is all laid out now ... (today) is one game takes all and winner goes to the NCAC tournament.”