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Foresters hold on for wild Crossroads League victory

PITCH: Senior pitcher DJ Moore pitched eight innings for the Foresters during Huntington’s 7–6 win over Taylor on Friday. Moore allowed two first-inning runs before shutting down the Trojan offense through the rest of his outing.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

The Huntington University baseball team opened up their 2019 Crossroads League schedule with a wild 7–6 victory over No. 22 Taylor in Upland, Indiana, on Friday afternoon.

The victory improved the Foresters’ season record to 5–5 and started their conference record at 1–0.

Things did not look promising early for Huntington, as the Foresters went one-two-three in the top half of the first inning before an offensive outburst for Taylor in the bottom half of the frame. Though the Trojans put two runs on the board, the damage could have been much worse, as Taylor had the bases loaded with no outs in the inning.

Luckily for the Foresters, it was senior pitcher DJ Moore on the mound for the matchup, and despite finding himself in a hole quickly, limited the threat and kept Huntington in the game even though the scoreboard read 2–0 Taylor after the first inning.

Moore’s consistency the rest of the way allowed the Forester defense to get into a rhythm, as the Ft. Wayne, Indiana, native gave up just four hits throughout the rest of his eight-inning performance.

After a scoreless second inning, the Foresters chopped into Taylor’s lead in the top of the third inning when an RBI groundout by freshman outfielder Collin Landrum scored freshman outfielder Ryan Hale to make the score 2–1 in favor of the Trojans.

Following scoreless fourth and fifth innings, Huntington erased their deficit in the sixth inning when Landrum scored on a Taylor error, tying the game at 2–2. The Foresters then grabbed their first lead of the game later in the inning, when senior infielder Adam Roser grounded out to bring in sophomore infielder Daniel Lichty, giving Huntington a 3–2 lead.

The Foresters extended their lead in the eighth inning by tacking on two more runs, compliments of an RBI single by Lichty scoring senior outfielder Donovan Clark and a sacrifice fly by sophomore outfielder Nick Davit to score Lichty.

Despite loading the bases in the bottom half of the inning, Moore ended his day by striking out Taylor’s Brett Lawson to send the game to the ninth inning with the Foresters holding a 5–2 advantage.

Though Huntington seemed to be in control at that point, the two runs they tallied in the top of the ninth inning would prove to be hugely important later on. Freshman infielder Satchell Wilson and Clark scored on a fielding error by the Trojans, increasing Huntington’s lead to a commanding 7–2 figure.

With the Trojans down to just three outs, a Forester win appeared to be imminent. Taylor had other plans, though, as the Trojans strung together an impressive stretch of offense in the bottom of the ninth in a frantic comeback bid.

The Trojans scored four runs after loading the bases twice, chasing freshman pitcher Brent Turner from the mound in favor of freshman pitcher Joey Butz. Down just one run with runners on first and second with just one out, Taylor seemed to be in good position to complete the comeback.

However, in Butz’s first at-bat on the mound, he swiftly pivoted and fired a perfect throw to second base to pick off the Taylor runner.

“The pick off was huge,” said head coach Mike Frame. “That’s a freshman putting a pick off on with a freshman pitcher. That was really huge.”

The pick off quickly changed the momentum back to Huntington’s side, as the Trojans now had two outs with just one runner on the base paths.

Butz wasted no time recording the final out of the game by getting Taylor’s Brian Fields to fly out to put a cap on a nerve-racking Huntington victory.

“Taylor is a well-respected rival of us,” Frame said. “We’ve went at it a lot over the years. Our guys understand that. There’s no problem getting up to play with this situation. It’s always good to get off to a good start. … To get the first (conference) win, it’s always nice.”

In all, Davit, Landrum, Lichty and Roser finished the game with RBIs for Huntington.

Clark and Lichty tied for the team lead with two runs scored each, while Hale, Landrum and Wilson also scored for the Foresters. Clark recorded a team-best three hits, with Wilson being the only other Forester to smash multiple hits with two.

Also of note, Clark, Landrum and Lichty all swiped a base for Huntington.

“We tried to run a little bit,” Frame said. “We tried to put some pressure on the other team. (We) tried to bunt the baseball. We got a couple big hits there. Lichty had a big hit for us. We’re not going to stand at home plate and hit the ball out of the yard. Two years ago we did; we just don’t have this type of team. We (have) to scratch and claw and we have to play a lot of guys off the bench: pinch it, what’s your role today, that kind of thing. The whole thing, we’re a work in progress. That sums up about everything. But, these kids want to be good and at some point they will be and they’ll play the game at a very high level a lot of the time.”

Moore earned the win on the mound for the Foresters, while Butz claimed the save.

Moore allowed seven hits and two runs in eight innings of work. However, three of those hits and both runs came in the first inning, with the sport management major shutting down Taylor the through the rest of his outing.

“The thing that won the game for us (was DJ) not panicking in the first inning,” Frame said. “Bases loaded, nobody out, we give them two; okay, we’re still in the game. We could have easily given (Taylor) four or five (runs). … He’s special. He was struggling on the mound because it’s so cold and he was having a hard time getting a grip on the baseball. … He’s a stud at this level. He’s one of the top guys in the league.”

The Foresters and Trojans were scheduled to play a doubleheader on Saturday afternoon, but results were not available as of The Herald-Press’s deadline.

Huntington will return to action on March 15 when they host Spring Arbor in another Crossroads League matchup and the Foresters’ home opener. First pitch is slated for 4:30 p.m.