There are few outs in baseball as tough as the Hillsdale College Chargers.
Hillsdale saw its 2017 season come to an end in an 8-6 loss to Grand Valley State University Saturday afternoon in Xenia, Ohio. The Chargers wrap up the season with a 25-26 overall record.
Everything was against the Chargers, even before conference tournament play. The team needed to win and get help just to qualify for this year's postseason tournament. Hillsdale went 3-1 in the regular season's final weekend, needing to win a one-run game on the road on the season's last day to get in.
After losing the conference tournament opener to top-seeded Northwood 14-0 Thursday, the team faced elimination Friday against the largest public school in the GLIAC, Wayne State.
The Warriors hit a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning to grab an 8-7 lead. But the resiliency of this team would not be denied, as the Chargers used a four-run ninth inning to advance to the tournament's second day.
On this second day, facing the second-largest public school in the GLIAC, Hillsdale fell behind 2-0, came back to take a 4-2 lead, then fell behind 8-5 late in the game. Hillsdale was down, but far from out.
Sophomore Steven Ring put a punctuation mark on a record-setting season with an absolute bomb over the right field fence to open the top of the ninth, suddenly making it an 8-6 ballgame. The home run extended his own single-season school record for dingers with 17, and set a new school single-season RBI record (63).
Senior Ethan Wiskur, one of the great all-around hitters in school history, followed with a single, later advancing to second on a wild pitch. But Grand Valley State closer Matt Williams struck out back-to-back batters and forced a fly out to end the threat, the game and the season.
Wiskur was 3-for-5 with a double and a run scored in his final collegiate game.
After falling behind 2-0, sophomore Colin Hites got the Chargers going with a second-inning triple that scored Dante Toppi and Ryan O'Hearn, tying it up at 2. Hillsdale took the lead in the third when Mike Mitchell and Dylan Lottinville produced back-to-back RBI groundouts, scoring Wiskur and Ring to make it a 4-2 Charger lead.
However, the Lakers responded with one in the third and two in the fourth to take the lead for good.
Freshman Andrew Verbrugge gave the Chargers a gritty start on the mound, going 6.2 innings with five strikeouts. Verbrugge took the hill knowing the Charger bullpen was seriously depleted, and helped Hillsdale hang in the game throughout. Three of the eight runs he surrendered were unearned.
Alex Walts was 2-for-5 and Hites scored twice for Hillsdale. O'Hearn had a hit, a run scored and a stolen base, while Lottinville had a hit and a run batted in.