NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – With Senior Weekend 2014 in progress Saturday, April 5, Manchester University needed a hero to help lead the way to an important Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference split.
Third baseman Kylie Planck (Valparaiso, Ind.) was happy to oblige in the nightcap against Franklin College. With the sacks jammed and two outs, Planck, one of the four members of the Class of 2014 who will be honored prior to first pitch Sunday, April 6, laid down a perfectly placed bunt single that left the Grizzlies' infield with nowhere to throw as the winning run scampered across in a 9-8 victory.
Planck's heroics wrapped up a wild two-plus-hour knockdown, drag-out fight in front of the home crowd at Spartan Field. MU (4-12 overall, 1-3 HCAC) had bolted out to an 8-2 lead thanks six runs coming in over the third and fourth innings before Franklin (13-11, 2-4 HCAC) rallied back with four in the fifth and two in the seventh to force extra innings. The home side put the winning run in scoring position in the eighth but had it stranded and then set up Planck's walk-off with back-to-back hits from junior outfielder Shannon Stephan (Granger, Ind.) and junior shortstop Emily Willmann (Montpelier, Ind.) and a walk to senior infielder Alicia Cleveland (Lagrange, Ind.).
Game one saw the Spartans get out of the gates quickly plating three in the first due to an RBI double from sophomore catcher Kaile Niezgodski (South Bend, Ind.), an RBI single from Stephan and an RBI sacrifice fly from sophomore infielder MacKenzie Williams (Kendallville, Ind.). However, the Grizzlies answered with two in the second and six in the fourth en route to a 10-3 win.
The Black and Gold's overall offensive leaders were Niezgodski, Willmann and freshman outfielder Emilee Liston (Cicero, Ind.) who each tallied three hits. All of Liston's safeties occurred in the second game. Williams led the pitching efforts, picking up the game two win and sporting a 3.50 earned run average with only three earned runs allowed over six innings.
MU welcomes Hanover College for its Senior Day 2014 festivities Sunday, April 6. First pitch is 1 p.m.
NOTES: Liston and Planck each take strong on-base strings into Sunday. The freshman has reached in eight straight, due in large part to the first three-hit game of her collegiate career, while Planck has been on base in nine successive games which a four-game hit streak is part of … Saturday's split marked the fourth time since 2007 the two sides had halved the season series.