AUBURNDALE, FLA. -- The Trine University baseball team began its 2018 campaign with a two-game split against Central (Iowa) College winning the first game, 8-5 in eight innings, but dropping the second game, 14-2, in Auburndale, Fla.
The Thunder totaled 13 hits in game one, led by the trio of senior Kevin O'Malley (Commerce Twp., Mich./Walled Lake Central), junior Jacob Heller (Fort Wayne, Ind./Prairie Heights) and sophomore Nick Ricci (Hebron, Ind./Crown Point) who all finished with multi-hit games.
O'Malley ended with a team-high three hits in five at-bats and also had a RBI. Heller and Ricci both finished two-of-four with Heller also adding a run scored and RBI. Six other players each recorded a base hit in the game.
On the mound, senior Ben Wheaton got the win after pitching seven innings, allowing three runs and struck out four batters. Freshman Kyle Robinson (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point) came on in the eighth and faced four batters before being replaced by senior Dylan Hutchison (Montpelier, Ohio/North Central) who recorded the final three outs to pick up the save, his first of the season, including one via strikeout.
Central (1-1) struck first with a run in the bottom of the third on a sacrifice fly following a triple that began the inning. The two teams then traded runs in the fourth with Trine's (1-1) run coming on a double play with runners on first and third, but the Dutch still maintained a one-run lead, 2-1, after four innings.
The Dutch added another run in the fifth on a solo homerun, but the Thunder tallied runs in the top of the sixth and seventh innings that came on a RBI-single by O'Malley and another RBI-single by junior Zach Schulte (Sterling Heights, Mich./Warren Cousino) that tied the game at 3-3, sending the game into extras.
In the top of the eighth, Trine took a commanding lead scoring five runs that included RBI-base hits by sophomore Chase Hall (Orleans, Ind./Orleans), freshman Shane Devine (Valparaiso, Ind./Portage), Jacob Douglass and Heller to make the score, 8-3. In the bottom half of the inning, Central got the bases loaded with no outs. Following a walk that plated a run, Hutchison came on to pitch for the Thunder and recorded a strikeout before another run scored on a sacrifice fly to make the score, 8-5. But that was as close as the Dutch would get as the Thunder got Central to hit into the final flyout to end the game and claim the three-run victory.
In game two, Trine finished with nine hits with Schulte recording two hits in two at-bats. Devine and Heller both went two-of-three which included a run scored and RBI for Devine, while Heller also drove in a run.
Trine used five pitchers in the nightcap with sophomore Tony Botonne (Fort Wayne, Ind./Bishop Luers) getting the start. Botonne pitched three complete innings and allowed four runs, three earned, on three hits and also had three strikeouts.
In a repeat of game one, Central grabbed the early lead with a run in the top of the first inning and then added another run in the third to make it a 2-0 game. Trine answered both runs with two runs of its own in the bottom of the third on a pair of RBI-singles by Devine and Heller, tying the game at 2-2.
The Dutch offense then took over with 12 unanswered runs, beginning with a five-run top of the fourth that included a three-run homerun. Central went on to plate three additional runs in the fifth, a run in the sixth and three more runs in the seventh en route to the 14-2 final and the two-game split.
Trine returns to action tomorrow (Monday, Mar. 5) with a single nine-inning game against Saint Joseph's College of Maine as part of the RussMatt Invitational in Winter Haven, Fla. The first pitch is scheduled for 10 a.m.