It was a waxing-and-waning affair through the first four innings between the Lansing and Groton baseball teams on April 25. However, the Bobcats slapped a seven-spot on the scoreboard in the top of the fifth inning to cruise to a 12–6 victory.
Lansing head coach Brett Hotchkiss said the fact that hitters were able to score in a variety of ways led to the offensive success on the day.
“I think we definitely chipped away,” Hotchkiss said. “I think we kind of scratched out some runs, which is always good to see. It’d be nice to see us have a little better approach at the plate than we did. I think we fall in a lot of the same habits sometimes. It’s nice to see when you have one or two guys that are really willing to go ahead and bear down and pick you up.”
“It was nice for us to scrap and add runs in different ways throughout the course of the game, whether it be the long ball, beating out an infield hit. Going ahead and just finding a way to chip in a two-out hit, kind of dunk it out there. Those are all things that I think contributed to us being able to have those innings.”
The Bobcats took an early lead in the top of the first inning. Senior Garrett Bell led off the game with a triple to deep left-center, and scored on a single by junior Nick Ciaschi as the Bobcats led 1–0.
Groton responded in the bottom half with two runs to take its first lead of the contest, but Lansing regained the lead in the top of the second 3–2.
Sophomore Ben Vincent led off the inning with an infield base hit and eventually stole second base. After sophomore starting pitcher Gavin Dowell struck out looking, junior Sean O’Callaghan drove in Vincent with a single to tie the game at two. O’Callaghan would later come around to score on an error to put the Bobcats up by a run.
Groton tied it up again in the bottom half with a run before Lansing took back the lead with a run-scoring double from Vincent in the top of the third. Yet, Groton tied the game at four in the bottom of the third on a wild throw from Dowell.
The Bobcats once again retook the lead with a run in the top of the fourth. Bell led off the inning with a single and eventually stole second and third. Ciaschi struck out in his third at-bat that inning, and junior Anthony Ruquet popped out to second afterwards. Senior Griffen Nelson was up next at the dish, and hit a two-out base hit to drive in Bell and give the team a 5–4 advantage.
Groton threatened to at least tie the game again in the bottom of the fourth when the team had runners on second and third and one out. Ciaschi relieved Dowell at the start of the inning, and was able to produce groundouts to third base from the next two hitters to hold Groton scoreless in the frame.
Then came the top of the fifth when the Bobcats scored seven runs to give themselves significant breathing room against their opponent. Vincent led off the inning with a base hit. He then stole second and then reached third on a wild pitch during Dowell’s plate appearance. Dowell eventually reached first base on a fielder’s choice, which scored Vincent from third.
O’Callaghan struck out looking for the first out of the inning before sophomore Gabe Santiago hit a single to set up runners on first and second for Bell. Bell reached on an error by the shortstop to load the bases for Ciaschi. Ciaschi was then hit by a pitch, which scored Dowell and moved Bell to second and Santiago to third to put Lansing up 7–4.
Next up was Ruquet, who singled and drove in Santiago to increase the squad’s lead to 8–4, as the bases remained loaded. After Ruquet came Nelson, who on an 0–1 pitch clubbed a shot down the left field line that was just able to stay fair for a grand slam, elevating the Bobcats’ lead to 12–4.
Nelson said he was just pleased to put the ball in play during that at-bat.
“I’ve been struggling all year, just [putting] the ball in play,” Nelson said. “Obviously with people in scoring position, I was just trying to get some runs in.”
“Just squaring the ball up and stuff like that. I’ve been putting the ball in play, just not really hard.”
Ciaschi pitched two more scoreless innings before being relieved by Vincent in the bottom of the seventh. Vincent found himself in a jam after walking walking the first two batters of the inning. A passed ball allowed those two runners to advance a base each as Groton had runners on second and third with no outs.
Vincent produced a groudout to first base from the third hitter of the inning, which allowed a run to score to trim Lansing’s lead to 12–5. He then got the next batter to ground out to short, allowing another run to score while securing the second out of the inning. Vincent was able to record the final out of the game to seal a 12–6 victory for the team.
Dowell gave up four runs (two earned) over three innings pitched on five hits, two walks and a hit batsman while striking out two. Ciaschi stymied Groton’s offense over his three innings of work. He allowed no runs and only gave up three hits while walking one and striking out five. Ciaschi also went 1-for-4 at the plate with a run scored and two runs batted in.
“I think the biggest thing was just going out there and challenging their hitters early in the count,” Hotchkiss said of the relief effort. “I think that’s what we did a better job with our second and third guys in there, is getting ahead early in the count. Even though we didn’t do an incredible job with the pitches we did mix in, we were able to mix in a little bit more because we were pitching from ahead as opposed to pitching from behind.”
Nelson went 3-for-4 with the grand slam, scoring twice and driving in five runs. Vincent may have struggled a bit on the mound, but not at the plate that day. He went 4-for-5 with a two-bagger, two stolen bases, two runs scored and a run driven in. Santiago went 3-for-4 with a double and a run scored. Bell went 2-for-5 with a three-bagger, three runs scored and two stolen bases.