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April 30, 2013

Black and Gold roll to conference-clinching win

DEFIANCE, OHIO – Manchester University didn't leave anything to chance at Defiance College's Craig A. Rutter Field Tuesday, April 30.

The No. 13-ranked D3Baseball.com and No. 15-ranked American Baseball Coaches Association Division III Spartans launched their potent offense from the beginning against the host Yellowjackets en route to a 17-1 win. MU's victory clinched the program's second Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference title in the last three years and fifth overall.

"It all goes back to the players and how hard they've worked for this," Coach Rick Espeset said. "The senior class has had great leadership on and off the field after having won a title as sophomores and then winning the conference tournament championship last year. The entire team has made it evident that the success on the field correlates to the hard work they've put in."

 MU (29-5-1 overall, 19-3 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference) took advantage of four walks to set up a nine-run first inning roll. After senior pitcher Bryce Murphy (Ossian, Ind.), senior first baseman Brad Murphy (Fort Wayne, Ind.), and senior shortstop Corey Marchant (Fort Wayne, Ind.) each earned free passes, the Spartans were off to the races one out later.

A run-scoring walk to sophomore second baseman Trevor Kimm (Anderson, Ind.) forced in the first score, while senior outfielder Cody Schell (Granger, Ind.) snuck a base hit down the left field line, and sophomore outfielder Kyle Norris (Indianapolis, Ind.) cracked a grand slam home run for a 6-0 lead. MU wasn't finished, as senior outfielder Austin Rieke (Fishers, Ind.) drilled a double, Bryce Murphy drove him home with a single, and Marchant, after a hit batsman, laced a two-run double to complete the outburst.

The Black and Gold offensive machine kept after the Yellowjackets' pitching staff. Manchester University plated eight runs over the final three innings. Freshman catcher Elliot Ford (Rome City, Ind.) blasted a two-run double as part of a three-run seventh, junior third baseman Jordan Nieman (Michigan City, Ind.) drilled a two-run home run to highlight a three-run eighth, and freshman Aaron Wells (Cowan, Ind.) and senior Tyler Krempasky (South Bend, Ind.) each drove in runs in the ninth.

 The 17-run, 19-hit barrage was more than enough for Murphy's pitching efforts. He moved his record to 4-2 with four strikeouts and just one walk and one earned run surrendered over seven frames.

Manchester University wraps up the 2013 regular season with its Senior Weekend 2013 series against Mt. St. Joseph Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4. Start times are 4:15 p.m. Friday and 12 p.m. Saturday.

NOTES: Tuesday's win also ensured the road to the NCAA Division III national tournament goes through North Manchester, Ind., and Gratz Field. MU hosts the 2013 HCAC Championships Thursday through Saturday, May 9-11. … The Black and Gold's next victory marks the program's first 30-wins-or-more campaign since 2006. … Nieman extended his hitting streak to 12 games, while Norris and Brad Murphy both reached 10-game hit strings. … Brad Murphy also added another game to his long on-base streak, going to 24 consecutive contests. Kimm (17), Rieke (16) and Nieman (15) each have 15-or-more straight games in which they've reached base. … MU's 17-run outburst continued an impressive recent trend for the Spartans. They've scored double figures in eight of their last 13 games.