FRANKLIN, Ind. – The No. 22-ranked Franklin College baseball team opened a six-game homestand on Tuesday (Apr. 17) afternoon, taking on Rose-Hulman in a pair of important Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference (HCAC) contests.
The No. 22-ranked Grizzlies (24-2, 9-1 HCAC) made it five consecutive wins, sweeping the Engineers (10-19, 5-6 HCAC). Game one saw the Grizzlies jump out to an early lead before pulling away late for a 10-2 win. Rose-Hulman jumped out to a three-run lead early in the night cap before the Grizzly bats came alive in a 5-3 victory to polish off the sweep.
Sophomore Ryan Bixler went 3-for-8 on the afternoon with three home runs, including the go-ahead three-run blast in game two. One day after earning his first HCAC Player of the Week award, Nick Wright led all Franklin players with four hits on the day.
Game One: Franklin 10 – Rose-Hulman 2
The Grizzlies used a clutch piece of hitting from Jarrod Smith to open the scoring in the second. With two down and runners at the corners, Smith laced a pitch into right center field, plating Nick Wright for the first run of the day.
Two innings later, the bottom of the Franklin order came through to stretch the lead to 4-0. Alex Mis and Smith notched back-to-back RBI singles in front of nine-hitter Brandt Pawley, who brought home the Grizzlies' fourth run of the day with a safety squeeze.
Rose would get on the board in the fifth, but the Grizzlies would get that run right back when Bixler led off the fifth with a long home run, his fifth of the year, to make it a 5-1 game. Two innings later, Bixler would leave the yard for the second time in the game, staking Franklin to a 6-2 lead through seven.
Franklin put the game out of reach in the eighth, sending all nine batters to the plate in a four-run frame. Ryan Erlandson brought in a run with a single, two scored on a Jackson Freed single and an error allowed Brandt Pawley to come home, capping the scoring.
Senior Mitchell Caster (2-1) earned his first win since Mar. 3, allowing four hits and matching a season-high with eight strike outs over six innings of work. Nate Stonebraker struck out a pair over the final three innings to earn his second save of the season.
Game Two: Franklin 5 – Rose-Hulman 3
The Engineers pounced on game two starter Connor Morton early, scoring three times in the top of the first. But Morton would settle down after that, allowing just three hits over his final six innings of work, giving the FC offense a chance to erase the deficit.
Following a walk and a Rose error to open the third inning, the Grizzlies were on the board thanks to a Sam Claycamp sacrifice fly. One batter later, Wright smacked a double off the left field wall, scoring Bixler to cut the Engineer lead to 3-2.
One inning later, the comeback was complete. With two outs and two on, Bixler launched a 1-1 pitch over the left field wall, giving Franklin a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Rose would threaten in the top of the ninth, drawing back-to-back walks with one out to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. But the rally would end there as Jordan Clark forced a game-ending 6-4-3 double play to close out the sweep.
Morton (4-0) allowed three runs on six hits with five strikeouts over seven innings of work, his second straight outing of at least seven innings. Clark notched his fifth save of the season, tossing two innings of hitless ball.
Next up for the Grizzlies is a showdown with defending HCAC champion Earlham on Saturday (Apr. 21) afternoon at John P. McDowell Field. First pitch of game one is set for noon.