The Hopkins baseball team faced off against the Gettysburg College Bullets in a pair of games on Saturday, April 17. The teams were sitting on opposite ends of the Centennial Conference standings, so the Blue Jays were expecting to earn a win or two.
Junior catcher AJ King talked about the team’s confidence against Gettysburg in an interview with The News-Letter.
“We take these games in stride as we feel like, with our talent level, winning should be a normal thing for us,” he said. “When we score early, we play loose and with a lot more confidence. It's always tougher to play on the road in our Conference and this weekend, we proved we can still dominate in tougher conditions.”
The first game took place Saturday morning and it started off well for Hopkins. Junior outfielder Isaiah Winikur led the batting order and reached first base on a walk. A few batters later and Winikur found himself on third base thanks to a fielder’s choice. Junior first baseman Jared deFaria followed with a sacrifice fly to send Winikur home and give the Jays an early 1-0 lead.
On the next at-bat, senior first baseman/outfielder Austin Sacks hit a single, and another runner reached home thanks to an error, bringing the Hopkins lead to two runs. Sacks was able to get to third base, but the third out came before the team could score again.
Sophomore pitcher Peter Schaefer got the start for the Blue Jays and made quick work of the Bullets. Two strikeouts and a groundout later, the inning was already over.
Little did the Bullets know that just after the first inning had ended Hopkins had already scored enough runs to secure the win. A fielding error in the second inning allowed junior catcher James Ingram to steal home and score the third run of the game.
On the defensive side, Schaefer extended his no-hitter through the second inning. A ball got past the Gettysburg catcher and again, Hopkins stole home, this time thanks to King. The score was now 4-0.
Schaefer finally allowed a hit in the third inning, but it turned into a double play and the Bullets remained scoreless. On offense, King and Sacks got a series of RBIs to make the score 7-0.
Throughout the rest of the game, this pattern continued. Schaefer continued his dominance, and so did sophomore pitcher Jack McRae, who came in to close the game. Gettysburg never got more than a single hit in an inning.
Graduate student infielder Dai Dai Otaka, graduate student first baseman Barrett Smith, King, Ingram and freshman outfielder Tripp Myers all scored RBIs. In the end, Hopkins won with a whopping score of 13-0.
Schaefer earned the win, his second of the season. Sacks led the team with three RBIs, with King and Myers behind him with two.
King talked about his performance in the weekend games.
“There's no better feeling than a win where the whole team contributes, and we were able to do that this weekend by letting a lot of guys who don't normally get a lot of at-bats get some playing time,“ he said. “As a catcher, I like to pride myself on my defense and taking care of our pitchers, but it's always a good feeling to get some hits.”
Gettysburg was expected to recuperate from this devastating loss and play the Blue Jays again later in the day.
For the first inning of game two, the Bullets did just that. The Blue Jays could not get a single hit and switched sides after a pop up and two groundouts. Fortunately for Hopkins, sophomore pitcher Kieren Collins reciprocated and retired the Bullets in three at-bats.
The second inning looked like the first game all over again. With the bases loaded, the Gettysburg pitcher threw a wild pitch and Sacks came home to score. A subsequent walk put runners on all three bases again. Junior third baseman Jack Walters hit a single to score two of the three runners. And a few at-bats later, senior infielder Matthew Ritchie scored the fourth run of the inning.
Collins, like Schaefer in the first game, continued to keep the Bullets hitless through two innings, and the second ended with a score of 4-0. In the third inning, two RBIs from Otaka forced the Bullets to make an early pitching change. The score was 6-0 heading into the bottom of the third.
This weekend wasn’t entirely hopeless for the Bullets; the third inning provided that for them in the form of their first run of the day. Still, Collins took care of business and limited the scoring to that single run.
King scored another run in the top of the fourth, but the bottom of the inning was when most of the action happened. A wild pitch put the Bullets runners on second and third, and both of them scored on a triple to right field. Hopkins was forced to make a pitching change of their own. Still, a runner had been left on third, and Gettysburg took no time ensuring he reached home. A sacrifice fly brought the score to 7-4, ending the inning.
The fifth inning came and went without any notable occurrences, and the Blue Jays were unable to get a hit in the top of the sixth. But in the bottom of the inning, a wild pitch and a walk set the Bullets up to score, bringing the score to 7-5. Hopkins made another pitching change, hoping to stop the score from getting any closer.
And this time, it worked. The Bullets did not score for the rest of the game. The Blue Jays, on the other hand, did a lot more scoring. In the top of the seventh, Otaka scored on a sacrifice fly. In the top of the eighth, deFaria scored too. Entering the ninth inning, the score was 9-5. That wasn’t secure enough for Hopkins, though, and they continued their offensive onslaught.
Once again, Otaka scored on a sacrifice fly and Ritchie followed that up with another RBI. After yet another Gettysburg pitching change, King brought Ritchie home off of an error. King then got home on a wild pitch. And by the end, the Blue Jays were able to score two more runs. The final score ended at 15-5.
The Blue Jays won both games with a combined score of 28-5. Junior pitcher Ben Keever was awarded the win, his first of the season. Five Hopkins players ended with two RBIs. The team advanced to a 7-3 record and will take on the Ursinus College Bears at home on Saturday, April 24.
As the season nears its close, King reflected on the team’s progress.
“We started off a bit slow, as the return to practice came late for us compared to our opponents,” he said. “But we are working every day to get better. We are taking it one game at a time and hoping to win out so that we have a chance to win the Conference and earn our place in an NCAA regional. The improvements we have made from the beginning of the season to now are amazing, and we will continue to work hard to be the best we can on game day.”