The Wheaton Thunder Baseball team took their three-game series this weekend against the Illinois Wesleyan University Titans two games to one. It was an interesting series, featuring a 12-1 blowout win by Wheaton in game one, a close game two where Wheaton was able to eke out a win 3-2 and a tough Wheaton loss in game three, 15-4. The Thunder’s overall record improved to 13-10 over the weekend, while their CCIW record stands at an even 4-4.
Game one of the series, played in Bloomington, Ill., was a seven-inning game that was shortened by the run rule, as Wheaton rolled to victory 12-1.
Things started off well for the Thunder, as five runners reached bases in the top of the first inning, resulting in three runs. Juniors Evan Ogden and Clay Morrison had RBI singles, while senior Johnny Peltz scored on an error by the opposing catcher.
The game remained 3-0 until Wheaton pulled away in the top of the third with a massive inning. The Thunder batted through their order and then some, on their way to eight runs on seven hits. Freshman Graham Core, junior Nick Mailman and freshman Joe Pierce all had two-RBI doubles in the inning, making up six of the Thunder’s runs, while freshman Jesse Welch accounted for the other two, as he drove in Mailman with an RBI single and later scored himself on a wild pitch.
The Titans scored their only run of the game in the bottom of the third, as junior starting pitcher Michael McCraith (3-2) held them down the rest of the way. McCraith went the distance, throwing a seven-inning complete game, giving up only one run on four hits, with 11 strikeouts and five walks.
Wheaton added one more run in the top of the seventh to earn the 12-1 victory.
Game two brought the teams to Lee Pfund stadium in Carol Stream, where Wheaton was able to get the win, 3-2, in a much closer ballgame.
Illinois Wesleyan scored first with two runs in the top of the third, but it took until the fifth inning for Wheaton to get on the board. In the bottom of the frame, freshman Jacob Garrity led off with a triple and was quickly brought home on a single by Core to bring the score to 2-1.
After no scoring in the sixth inning, Wheaton relied on small ball to tie the game in the seventh. After Garrity and Core walked, Mailman moved the pair to second and third with a SAC bunt, and Welch brought Garrity home with a suicide squeeze to even the score at 2-2.
Wheaton would score the final run of the game in the bottom of the eighth when Peltz led off with a double, was bunted to third by Morrison and then scored on an RBI single by Pierce.
Sophomore Grant Howell started the game on the mound and earned a tough no-decision for his seven-inning, two-run, seven-strikeout performance. It was junior Caleb Selk (3-0) who earned the win for pitching a scoreless eighth inning, while senior Nick Johnson earned his sixth save of the year as he shut down the Titans in the top of the ninth.
After two strong wins in the series, Wheaton was unable to complete the sweep with a game three win, as they lost in a blowout, 15-4.
Wheaton had a 3-1 lead after the first inning, and added another run in the bottom of the fifth, but Illinois Wesleyan’s bats were too much for the Thunder. They scored in each of the last five innings of the game, with especially big innings of four runs in the sixth and six runs in the seventh, to finish the game with a score of 15-4.
Six Thunder pitchers gave up a combined 18 hits, and Wheaton’s defense allowed four errors. Welch took the loss for the Thunder. The Thunder were led from the plate by Pierce, who had two hits and two RBIs.
Freshman Joel Pierce earned the title of CCIW Hitter of the Week for his performance this weekend. Across the three games, Pierce had six hits and five RBIs, including two doubles and a triple. He also drew two walks, stole a base and scored once during the series.
The Thunder will look to extend this performance into the weekend, where they will play another three-game conference series against Carthage College. Game one will be at Lee Pfund Stadium in Carol Stream on Friday, April 13, at 5 p.m. Games two and three will be on Saturday the 14th in Kenosha, Wisconsin at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.