By Heather Bremer
For The Herald Bulletin
Anderson University baseball coach David Pressley sees playing at Victory Field as a special opportunity for his Ravens, especially seniors who have worked hard for the program.
So it was without reservation that Pressley replaced senior pitcher Tyler Watson, who had just struck out two straight IPFW batters in the ninth inning of a 4-4 game Monday, with fellow senior Andrew Enderle.
“We had two seniors that we wanted to throw here to finish, and we figured Enderle would come in and do his thing, strike the guy out and we’d all be happy” Pressley said.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out that way.
IPFW’s Malcolm White belted Enderle’s third pitch to left-center field, where AU’s Zach Garcia misjudged it. Garcia dropped the ball, and the Mastodons’ Caleb Fenimore, on base courtesy of a Watson walk, came wheeling around from first to home. Enderle surrendered two more runs on a walk and a double before getting Steve Lowden to fly out to end the inning.
The Ravens gave it their best effort to overcome the 7-4 deficit in the bottom of the inning, getting a home run from Zach Hufferd that sailed over the 362-foot mark of the right-field fence. But that’s all the offense AU could muster, falling 7-5 to the Mastodons.
“We should have caught the ball in left field, and we’d probably walk off with Hufferd’s home run. Any other day (Enderle) strikes that guy out or we catch the pop up,” Pressley said. “We haven’t started the season swinging the bats the way we like so we were excited about that and definitely saw a couple more arms throw well. So (despite the loss) it felt good.”
Watson and Enderle were two of seven different pitchers the Ravens employed in the game. Starter Blake Hall garnered three strikeouts in two innings of work as AU built an early 2-0 lead. But Dane DeWitt and Nick Nunez combined to allow four IPFW runs in the third through six innings to put the Mastodons in front 4-2. The Ravens scored twice in the eighth to reach the 4-4 tie as Mark Garrett and then Camerson Dotson worked from the mound.
“We came off conference this weekend, three games, and then we have the biggest conference game yet tomorrow with the No. 1 team in the conference (Manchester, in the home opener),” Pressley said. “We just couldn’t extend anybody and risk not having them tomorrow.”
The Ravens’ five runs came on 12 hits, all singles aside from Hufferd’s homer. AU benefited from three IPFW errors, while committing a handful of their own defensive miscues. Pressley says that aspect of the Ravens’ game definitely will need to improve if they hope to compete in the postseason.
“We talked about seeing the play before it happens,” Pressley said. “I don’t think we’re anticipating enough, and we’re too surprised by the ball.”
Monday’s game against a Division I opponent was certainly a good test run for AU’s even bigger challenge tonight against HCAC foe Manchester. The Spartans are playing well and are the team to beat in the conference.
“I know they’re nationally ranked,” Pressley said, “so we know we’ve got to play our best ball.”