Whitehead's Clutch Hit Salvages Split With Spalding

Photo by Caleb Maassen.
Photo by Caleb Maassen.

Louisville, KY, 4/10/2022 – The Westminster College baseball team came into Sunday having dropped game one of their three game SLIAC series with Spalding University on Saturday.  The Blue Jays were in search of a bounce back win in the series.  They would lead 5-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning of the first game of the day only to suffer a gut-wrenching Spalding comeback that ended with a walk off single to send the Blue Jays to defeat in game two of the series.  The Blue Jays would then show their mettle in the nightcap of the double header as they would battle to 4-3 victory to salvage the double header split and the third game of the series on a clutch two out hit by Payton Whitehead (Belleville, Il. / Belleville West) in the top of the ninth inning.  The Blue Jays record now stands at 5-19 overall and 3-8 in SLIAC play.

Game Two Boxscore

The Blue Jays got to work in the second inning as Quin Adelson (Louisville, KY / North Oldham) would lead off the inning with a single to right field. After a pop up recorded the first out of the inning, Adelson would advance to second on a wild pitch by the Golden Eagle starter.  Hayden Hirschvogel (Jefferson City, Mo. / Jefferson City) would then draw a walk putting runners on first and second with one out.  Zach Wolken (Jefferson City, MO / Helias) would fly out to center field and Coltin Green (St. Anthony, Mo. / St. Elizabeth) would come to the plate and deliver a two out RBI single to stake the Blue Jays to a 1-0 lead. Derek Shikles (New Bloomfield, MO / New Bloomfield) would widen the Blue Jay lead as he would blast a solo home run to left field in the top of the third inning that made the score 2-0 Jays.

The Golden Eagle's would get a run back in the bottom of the third to cut the Blue Jay lead to 2-1. The game would stay 2-1 for the next several innings as both teams' pitchers settled in. Blue Jay lefty Bode Gebbink (St, Joseph, Il. / St. Joeseph-Ogden) would pitch seven innings for the Blue Jays and give up 1 run on two hits.  He walked three and struck out six in his best outing of the season to date.  He left with a 5-1 lead after throwing 104 pitches, 65 for strikes.

The Blue Jays got that 5-1 lead as they would plate three runs in the top of the seventh inning.  Matt Lukins (Clark, MO / Rock Bridge) led off the inning with a single up the middle.  He was erased in a fielders choice as Steven Diaz (Highland, IL / Highland) reached with one out. A lineout by Shikles accounted for the second out of the inning and that's where the Jays really went to work.  Diaz would steal second base. Adelson came through with a two out RBI single to make it 3-1.  A throwing error by the third baseman allowed Austin Mayton (Wentzville, Mo. / Fort Zumwalt North) to reach second base and sent Adelson to third.  Hirschvogel would then single through the left side to drive in both Adelson and Mayton for a 5-1 Blue Jay lead heading into the bottom of the eighth. That's where the wheels would begin to fall off for the Jays.

Kaleb Hinkle-Pruett (Alton, IL / Roxana) would come on in relief for the Jays looking to shut the Golden Eagles down in the eighth. The first three Spalding batters reached in the inning.  Hinkle-Pruett would then strikeout the fourth Golden Eagle batter but the bases remained loaded.  He would walk the next batter to force in a run to cut the Blue Jay lead to 5-2.  The next batter singled up the middle scoring a run but the Blue Jays golden glove center fielder Diaz would throw the Spalding runner trying to score from second base out at the plate to preserve a run and keep the score at 5-3. Hinkle Pruett would strikeout the next batter to get out of the jam with only two runs scoring.  Matt Trout (Lee's Summit, Mo. / Blue Springs South) took over for Hinkle Pruett in the bottom of the ninth.  The first batter singled for Spalding and then the Golden Eagles Marcus Collins hit a game tying two run home run to left field and the score was suddenly 5-5.  The next batter reached on a single and the Blue Jays would make another pitching change bringing in Corbin Harrison (Eldon, MO / Eldon) for Trout.  He would then hit the first batter he faced to send the potential winning run down to second base before the Golden Eagles Dryden Schroeder ended the game with a walk off single to win the game for Spalding 6-5.  

Game Three Boxscore

The third and final game of the three-game series found the Blue Jays trying to pick up the pieces from game two.  What looked like a series changing game turned into a crushing defeat but the Blue Jays would show their resolve in game three.  They would look to a senior on the mound for that resolve.  Jacob Waeltermann (Barnhart, Mo. / Seckman), who had been a middle inning reliever so far this year for the Blue Jays, got his first start of the year.  He would give up one run in the first inning but then would give the Jays what they needed shutting down the Golden Eagles through six innings.

The Blue Jays offense would go to work in the top of the fourth inning.  Lukins would reach on a throwing error by the second baseman.  After Diaz struck out, Shikles would single through the right side to send Lukins to second.  Adelson would then hit an RBI single to left field to score Lukins. Shikles would advance to third and Adelson to second on the throw home and then Shikles would come into score on a throwing error by the pitcher to make it 2-1 Blue Jays.  Mayton would ground out to the second baseman and Adelson would advance to third with two out.  Hirschvogel would continue his good day at the plate as he beat out an infield single to short to score Adelson and give the Jays a 3-1 lead.

Waeltermann would cruise through six innings.  He would, however, run into trouble in the bottom of the seventh inning. He would get a ground out to start the inning. A single up the middle and a walk put Spalding runners on first and second with one out.  That would chase Waeltermann as the Jays would go to the pen bringing in Harrison.  Harrison would walk the first batter he faced to load the bases.  He then forced in a run when he hit the second batter. He was then able to settle down and get a big strikeout for the second out of the inning.  Unfortunately, Harrison would walk the next batter and force in the tying run before he recorded the final out of the inning on a fly ball out to center field.  Both runs were charged to Jake whose final line went six and a third innings giving up three runs on seven hits. He struck out five and walked three in a tough no decision. A good outing by the senior to help the Jays have a chance to get a much-needed win. 

The Blue Jays would retake the lead in the top of the ninth inning.   The Blue Jays would get started with two outs and nobody on in the top of the ninth when Green would get on after being hit by a pitch. He would then swipe second base.  Whitehead would then come through with the clutch RBI single to center field to give the Jays the lead back 4-3.  Harrison would take it from there.  He would throw out the potential tying run at the plate on a comebacker for the second out of the bottom of the ninth inning and then strand the tying run at second base when he struck out Michael Speck for the final out of the game to preserve the 4-3 victory. 

The Blue Jays will be back in action on Friday April 15th when they return home to face SLIAC foe the Greenville University Panthers in a double header at 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.  They will conclude their three game series with the Panthers on Saturday April 16th in a 12:00 p.m. start time.