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Grenadiers open home season with a comeback win

IUS baseball split home opener with William Penn

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Grenadiers open home season with a comeback win

Peyton Bledsoe fires a pitch during his relief appearance in game 2 of the Grenadiers' first doubleheader against William Penn University.
Photo by Brandon Miniard.

Peyton Bledsoe fires a pitch during his relief appearance in game 2 of the Grenadiers' first doubleheader against William Penn University. Photo by Brandon Miniard.

Peyton Bledsoe fires a pitch during his relief appearance in game 2 of the Grenadiers' first doubleheader against William Penn University. Photo by Brandon Miniard.

Peyton Bledsoe fires a pitch during his relief appearance in game 2 of the Grenadiers' first doubleheader against William Penn University. Photo by Brandon Miniard.

Brandon Miniard, Staff Reporter

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The IUS baseball team started by picking up victories against three schools ranked in the top 20 in NAIA, the University of the Cumberlands (19), Bryan College (15), and Campbellsville (14). They would follow that with a two game sweep of Huntington University in Westfield Indiana to start the year 5-3.

After starting the first two weeks of the season on the road, the Grenadiers returned to Koetter Sports Complex to play their home opener, a doubleheader against William Penn University (IA) as part of a two-day, four-game series. The Statesmen entered the series 8-1 to start the season.

“Being at home, it’s always nice to be able to go to sleep in your own bed when you get down and not have to make a pilgrimage to somewhere,” Head Coach Ben Reel said, “But playing at home also involves a little extra pressure when you’re playing in front of your family or buddies, it can be distracting, especially for a young team.”

GAME 1

Game one started out as a pitchers duel, as Grenadier right-hander Grant Bradley and Statesmen southpaw Chase Stratton kept the contest scoreless through the first four innings.

Bradley and his defense would be the first to blink in the top of the fifth, as the right handers would give up four hits, along with a pair of errors by Dalton Mitchell and Santrell Farmer, fueling the Statesmen to a 4-0 lead. Bradley would not escape the inning, being replaced by freshman Jacob Morley, who would stop the bleeding.

The Grenadiers would strike back in the bottom half, starting with a one-out double by catcher Brody Tanksley. A passed ball would move courtesy runner Dalton Drexler to third, followed by a walk to Farmer.

Drexler would soon score on a balk by Stratton while Farmer advanced to second before stealing third as well. After Mitchell struck out, senior Jordan Branz came through with a triple to right, scoring Farmer.

Stratton would be relieved by Nick Bruns, who ended the fifth and worked a 1-2-3 sixth inning.

Going into the bottom of the seventh with a 4-2 lead, the Statesmen turned to Stetson Denning, who got the first two outs quickly, making Tanksley line out to shortstop followed by striking out Farmer.

With the Grenadiers down to their final out, Mitchell drew a walk, which was followed by a deep double by Branz to cut the lead to one. The next batter, leadoff man Clay Woeste, singled to left, scoring Branz to tie the game. Daunte Decello would hit a popup to centerfield to send the contest into extra innings.

The game would remain scoreless until the bottom of the ninth.

Similarly to the bottom of the seventh, Denning would get the first two outs in the inning, but would soon walk Decello, who then stole second. That set the stage for freshman Derek “Dale” Wagner, who would hit a single to left, scoring Decello to give the Grenadiers’ their first home victory of the year.

“It felt really good because I had been 0-for-4 on the day up until that point,” Wagner said of his walkoff single, “It felt good to finally do something for the team and help them win.”

Kyle Hawkins, who relieved Morley with two outs in the eighth, would get the win. Stratton would get the loss despite striking out seven.

Derek Wagner loads up before hitting a single to left, driving in a run in the ninth inning to give the Grenadiers a 5-4 9-inning victory over William Penn University in game one of a doubleheader. Photo by Brandon Miniard.

GAME 2

The second game saw Grenadiers’ lefty Trevor Reynolds struggle early. Despite getting through the first inning unscathed, Reynolds would then surrender five runs, which led to an early departure after only 1.2 innings. Sophomore Peyton Bledsoe would get the Grenadiers out of the inning with no further damage before they scored a run in the bottom half.

The Statesmen would get that run back in the top of the third on a fielder’s’ choice, but Bledsoe kept them in check for the remainder of his three inning appearance.

Similarly to game one, the Grenadiers slowly chipped away at the deficit, scoring two in the third, as well as one each in the fifth and sixth to make it 6-5 Statesmen.

In the top of the seventh, lefty Owen Evans could not keep the Statesmen in check, allowing a hit to Zach Edgar to score Dominic Bravo, who reached on a one out walk. The insurance run proved to be enough, as the Statesmen would end the day with a 7-5 victory despite committing four errors.

Reynolds would get the loss while Statesmen right-hander Alec Myers would get the win, pitching three innings in relief of starter Fabio Espinosa.

“We’ve played some really good baseball at times, but today we didn’t play our best,” Reel said, “Not taking anything away from [William Penn] because they did a lot of the little things right and we didn’t.”

The Next Day

The two teams would play another doubleheader the following day. The Grenadiers would win game one 12-1 behind five innings of one-run ball by sophomore Brenden Bube, a Taylor University transfer. The Statesmen would counter with a 11-3 victory in the nightcap.

Despite only getting three hits in 13 at-bats in the series, Wagner did contribute by driving in six RBI, four of which came in the first game of the second day. Aside from this series, the Pittsboro, Indiana native has quickly emerged as one of the Grenadiers’ top hitters, cementing himself in the third spot of Reel’s lineup on a regular basis.

“He’s putting up All-American numbers for us right now,” Reel said of Wagner, “We’ve put him in a really big position hitting in our three hole as a true freshman. He’s had a ton of big hits for us this year.”

The Grenadiers return to action on starting on Friday, March 1, when they begin River States Conference play as they welcome the University of Rio Grande for a three game series. Friday will be a single game at 3 p.m., followed by a doubleheader on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.

 

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