FRANKLIN, Ind. – One day after a pair of emotionally-charged victories over the defending conference champions, the No. 17/22 Franklin College baseball team stepped out of conference play on Sunday (Apr. 22) afternoon, taking on Thomas More College at John P. McDowell Field.
Game one saw the Grizzlies (28-2) jump out to a big lead, but a late rally by the Saints (14-15) made things interesting. In the end, the Grizzlies were able to hold off their guest's charge and pick up a 10-9 win. In game two, junior Ben Sprinkle held the Saints to two runs over six innings in his first career start, a 5-2 Grizzly win that ran the team's winning streak to eight.
Game One: Franklin 10 – Thomas More 9
Sophomore Ryan Bixler continued his week-long tear in the opener, giving Franklin an early lead with a two-run home run in the bottom of the first. It was the fifth long ball of the week for Bixler, moving him into the team and conference lead with nine home runs on the year.
After Thomas More left the bases loaded in the third, Franklin padded their lead in the bottom of the inning. Frank Podkul, Alex Mis and Jarrod Smith all plated runs with singles in the inning, making it a 5-0 game. Two innings later, Smith collected his second RBI of the game with a fielder's choice and Bixler got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, bringing home a run to put FC up 7-1.
Thomas More added a pair of runs in the seventh, but Franklin got those runs right back when Sam Claycamp smacked his fourth home run of the year, extending the lead to 9-3. Drew Naumovich capped the scoring for Franklin with a sacrifice fly in the eighth, giving the Grizzlies what ended up being a very important insurance run.
Thomas More would claw their way back to within a run with two runs in the eighth and four in the ninth. But the Saints' rally would end with the tying run on first base, as Mitchell Caster recorded the final two outs to earn his first save of the year.
Connor Morton (5-0) made the start in game one and allowed one earned run on six hits, walking five and striking out three. Mis led the Grizzlies with three hits while Podkul scored three times to lead all Franklin batters.
Game Two: Franklin 5 – Thomas More 2
Jarrod Smith brought the Grizzlies even in game two, scoring on a throwing error in the bottom of the second to even things up at 1-1. Two innings later, Brandt Pawley put the Grizzlies in front with a two-out RBI double, scoring Naumovich to make it a 2-1 game.
The Saints drew even in the fifth, but Franklin would snatch the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth inning. After back-to-back doubles from Mis and Naumovich led off the inning, Smith plated the go-ahead run with an RBI ground out. One batter later, Pawley doubled the lead with a perfectly placed bunt single that brought Naumovich in to make it a 4-2 game. Ryan Erlandson added an insurance run in the eighth, bringing home Pawley with an RBI single.
Sprinkle (4-0) held the Saints in check in his first career start. The Indianapolis, Ind.-native allowed one earned run on eight hits over six innings, striking out three without allowing a free pass. Jackson White did not allow a hit over the final three innings, walking one and striking out two to earn his second save of the year.
The Grizzlies hit the road for their next contest, which takes place on Tuesday (Apr. 24) in Greencastle, Ind. and a single game against the DePauw Tigers. First pitch is set for 4:30 p.m.