LEXINGTON, KY. – When the dust settled on Manchester University's 2018 season at Transylvania University's John and Donna Hall Field Friday, May 4, the positives of what had occurred far outweighed a pair of back-to-back defeats at the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championships.
MU narrowly missed making noise over the weekend in the Bluegrass State. A raucous seventh-inning rally against fourth-seeded Defiance, highlighted by a two-run double off the bat of junior shortstop Mandi Boggs (Frankfort, Ind.) turned a once 3-0 deficit into a 3-3 tie. Boggs got to third with one out before a double play closed out further chances. The Yellow Jackets responded with a one-out run in the bottom of the final frame for a 4-3 decision. A trio consisting of junior catcher Sydney Thompson (Logansport, Ind.), senior outfielder Mikayla Deisler (Goshen, Ind.) and sophomore first baseman Makenzi Nyland (Avon, Ind.) added two hits each to the offensive attack. Senior Madisyn Walter (Hanna, Ind.), in her final outing in the circle, batted DC's Rachel Wehrman tooth and nail, going six and a third innings with two strikeouts and just two earned runs allowed.
In an elimination game against what would be eventual champion Franklin College, the Grizzlies totaled seven runs over the second and third frames for an insurmountable deficit. MU did rally within five twice and had more opportunities but couldn't close any further in route to a 10-5 loss. Senior second baseman standout Laurren Ladwig (Crown Point, Ind.), concluding a remarkable collegiate career, doubled twice and scored a run, while junior third baseman Kate Skeens (Gas City, Ind.) drilled a double and drove in two runs, and junior outfielder Krystal Sellers (Bourbon, Ind.) tallied two hits and scored a run.
Coach Josh Dzurick's program reached the event for the first time since 2015, forging a fifth-place finish replete with nine victories against what was one of the stronger league line-ups in recent history. Beyond that, the Black and Gold, ending at 17-21 to note the 10th successive slate with double-digit triumphs, tallied a robust .309 batting average with 33 home runs, 183 RBI, 204 runs scored and compiled a substantial .451 slugging percentage. The 33 big flies set a new single-season program record, while the slugging percentage was only eight points shy of the 2015 squad for the best. Individually, Ladwig made the home run category for the school and HCAC her playground, as her 19 single-season bombs were new bests for both and her 44 career round-trippers were tops for MU and among the HCAC's most. The Crown Point, Ind., native didn't finish far off the Spartans' single-season and career RBI firsts, trailing Amy Hommema's 2010 output by one and the former standouts' career lead of 126 by two.