Lexington, Ky. – The Transylvania baseball team continued its hot start to conference play on Sunday afternoon, sweeping the Franklin College Grizzlies, the reigning Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference champions, 7-4 and 10-7 at Marquard Field.
The Pioneers completed an 18-game March home schedule with four straight wins to begin HCAC play on Sunday as their offense again keyed a pair of high-powered wins at home. Transylvania now stands at 11-11 overall as its winning streak moved to five games on Sunday. Franklin dropped to 10-8 overall and 0-2 in HCAC play with Sunday's twin bill serving as its conference opener.
With the 4-0 start to the 2019 conference schedule, Sunday's wins marked the best start in HCAC competition for the Pioneers in over 10 years.
A pair of explosive five-run innings in each game served as the mechanism for victory as the Pioneers received a combined effort from its battery in both games to keep Franklin's offense in check.
In game one, the Pioneers erased a 2-0 third-inning lead for the Grizzlies with a five-run outpouring in the bottom of the fourth inning to seize momentum. With two away for the Pioneers in the bottom of the fourth, Hudson Chastain, who reached first base via single, made his way to second base on a wild pitch and Devyn Wilson-Cowan was hit by a pitch to represent the first major scoring threat of the day for Transylvania.
Wade Lopiccolo evened up the score at 2-2 with a double into centerfield to score both runners and the Pioneers were hungry for more. Jason Pastoor drew a walk to put two runners on again before the memorable play of the first game arose; Trey Medford drove a triple to centerfield to bring home Pastoor and Lopiccolo, and a bad relay allowed Medford to come home from third base on the play as the Pioneers became sudden owners of a 5-2 advantage.
Franklin countered with two runs in the top of the fifth as Transylvania starter Jake Schmidt bowed out after 4.2 innings of work. Schmidt finished the day with three strikeouts and four earned runs. Needing one out in the top of the fifth, Evan Burnett came on in relief of Schmidt and struck out Franklin's Blake Fisher as the Grizzlies left the bases loaded still facing a one-run deficit.
Wilson-Cowan handed the Pioneers an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth as the freshman stole both second and third before scoring on a wild pitch for a 6-4 Transylvania lead. Medford continued his scintillating day in the bottom of the eighth with his third RBI of the day on a hard hit up the middle to give the Pioneers a 7-4 advantage.
Burnett, Schmidt, and sophomore reliever Jared Leuthart conspired for nine strikeouts with each pitcher registering three strikeouts apiece. Burnett moved to 4-0 on the season as he picked up the win in two innings of work, allowing just one hit against two walks and no earned runs. Leuthart gained his first save of the season as he registered the final seven outs of the game and allowed no hits in the process.
The Pioneers stole a season-high eight bases as Riley Willbur and Wilson-Cowan each bagged two. Willbur, Lopiccolo, and Medford each went 2-for-4 at bat.
In game two, the Pioneers enjoyed a double dose of big innings with a five-run output in the second inning and took full control of the contest in the bottom of the seventh with a four-run inning en route to the 10-7 victory.
Franklin acquired a 1-0 lead in the top of the first before the Pioneers' outburst in the bottom of the second. Wade Lopiccolo began the effort with a lead-off walk and T.J. Keck followed with a base hit into left field to put two runners aboard. Medford did his part with a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position and Henry Molloy took full advantage of the situation, smacking a double into right centerfield to score both runners for a 2-1 Transy lead.
Willbur was the third straight Pioneer to record a hit with a single to the right side, scoring Molloy to make it a 3-1 game in favor of the Pios.
The Pioneers were the beneficiary of more Franklin mistakes in the second inning as Willbur motored to second on a passed ball and Chastain scored the junior on a base hit into centerfield. Chastain then scored on a topsy-turvy play as a failed pickoff attempt sailed high above the first baseman and trickled into right field, allowing Chastain to score all the way from first base for a 5-1 Transy lead.
The Grizzlies fought back, scoring four runs over the next two innings to tie the game at 5-5 in the top of the fourth inning. Transylvania relievers Joey Yancey and Luke Wilson worked in tandem to contain the Franklin attack, holding the Grizzlies scoreless in innings five through seven as the game remained tied.
Transylvania made its move ahead in the bottom of the seventh inning as the first three Pioneer batters all reached base via walks. Chastain again provided a big moment with a two-run single to drive in Willbur and Molloy for a 7-5 Transylvania lead. Austin Butts then hit a single through the left side to score Isaac Taylor to push the Pioneers ahead 8-5 and provide what would be the winning run. Lopiccolo finished off the four-run inning with a magnificent bunt that Franklin's pitcher could not corral, allowing Butts to come across home plate for a 9-5 advantage.
Franklin was able to find two runs against Wilson in the top of the eighth, but Max Medley closed the door on any further Grizzly rallies as Franklin again stranded three runners. Chastain pulled one run back for the Pioneers in the bottom of the eighth as he collected an RBI for the second straight inning with a double into left centerfield for the final score of the game.
Wilson claimed his first win of the season with three strikeouts and two earned runs allowed in 2.2 innings of work while Medley picked up his second career save as he found the final four outs of the day.
Chastain led the Pioneers with four RBI on a 4-for-5 game at the plate. Willbur went 1-for-3 with two walks while Molloy went 1-for-3 with two RBI.
One year after Franklin lost just three games in regular-season play and posted a 17-1 record in conference play, the Pioneers handed the Grizzlies back-to-back losses in their 2019 conference opener. Sunday also marked the first time Transylvania has won a season series against Franklin in over a decade.
The Pioneers return to play on Tuesday, April 2 with another HCAC series as they head up to Florence, Kentucky to take on the Mount St. Joseph University Lions. First pitch is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at UC Health Stadium.
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