By Gina de Haan
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – After dropping both ends of a conference doubleheader at Olivet this past Thursday, the Calvin baseball team bounced back, closing out the four-game series with back-to-back home wins. The Knights evened the series with 4-0 and 17-10 victories on Saturday.
With the win, the Knights improve to .500 on the season with an 18-18 overall record and 12-12 MIAA mark. Olivet drops to 7-29 overall and 4-20 in conference play. Calvin is in a tight race for a spot in the MIAA four-team postseason tournament. The Knights currently hold the fourth-place seat in the conference standings, just ahead of Trine and Alma.
In Saturday's first game, a standout 69-pitch performance by sophomore pitcher Jonathan Keane (Brookfield, Wis./Brookfield Central) led the Knights to a quick 4-0 win over the Comets. In the complete game shutout win, Keane faced 22 batters, striking out nine and giving up only one hit.
Keane retired the side to start off the game, and the Knights got on the board in the bottom of the first inning as Colton Wolfe (Eaton Rapids, Mich./Eaton Rapids) singled and came around to score after the Comets committed two errors.
In the top of the second inning, Aiden Holliday logged the lone hit against Keane, but the next three Comets were unable to reach base, including two strikeouts by the Calvin pitcher.
The Knights did their damage in the bottom of the second inning, scoring two runs. Logan Marshall (Plymouth, Mich./Salem) and Patrick Avila (Lakewood, Calif./Valley Christian) singled to bring up Johnny Salgado (Whittier, Calif./Whittier) with two baserunners. Salgado advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt and senior outfielder Mike Kempton (Edwardsburg, Mich./Edwardsburg) increased Calvin's lead to 3-0 with a two-RBI single up the middle of the infield.
Keane continued to make quick work of the Comets, going three-up three-down in the third and fourth innings.
To lead off the bottom of the fourth, Marshall, the freshman catcher, recorded his first collegiate career home run with a solo shot over the left field fence.
Keane denied the remaining nine Olivet batters of reaching base to improve to 3-4 on the season and lift the Knights to victory.
Calvin recorded nine hits against Olivet pitcher Brady Johnson. In the loss, Johnson faced 27 batters, threw 71 pitches and recorded two strikeouts, dropping to 1-4 on the year.
Neither pitcher walked a batter in the seven-inning game.
In the second end of the doubleheader, the Knights fended off a late Olivet comeback with a six-run eighth inning to claim the victory.
Sophomore Clay Francisco (Delton, Mich./Thornapple Kellogg) put on another impressive performance on the mound for the Knights. Francisco went 6.2 innings, giving up only two hits on 60 pitches to 22 batters faced. With the win, Francisco improves to 4-2 on the year.
The Knights' bats heated up early as the home team scored two runs in the first inning and four in the second.
Mike Kempton's added to his impressive game-one performance, singling to right center in the bottom of the first to score Beau Redfield (Cedar Springs, Mich./Northpointe Christian) for the first run of the game. Nate DeZwaan (Hamilton, Mich./Holland Christian) followed, putting the ball in play to score Colton Wolfe.
In the bottom of the second, the Knights batted through the order, scoring four runs on four hits. Kyle Houts (Spring Lake, Mich./Spring Lake) led off the inning beating out a grounder hit to the left side of the infield. After Houts stole second, Logan Marshall picked earned an infield single as well. Johnny Salgado was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Redfield capitalized on the opportunity, doubling down the left field line to score Houts and Marshall. After an Olivet pitching change, a sac fly by Wolfe scored Salgado and another single by Kempton drove in Redfield.
Francisco retired ten straight batters before Olivet's Aaron Gillespie reached first base on an error. Jonathan Keane quickly disrupted the Comet's scoring hopes, making a diving play at shortstop as the Knights turned the 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
The Knights added a pair of runs in both the fourth and fifth innings to lead 10-0, while going six-up, six-down on defense.
In the fourth inning, Keane's double to left field brought home Kempton and Wolfe, and in the following inning, DeZwaan singled through the right side to drive home Redfield and Salgado.
The Knights built their lead to 11 in the bottom of the sixth as Ryan Stewart (Shelby, Mich./Parkway Christian) walked and then scored on an outfield fielding error after a Salgado double.
The Comets began to chip away at Calvin's comfortable lead in the seventh inning scoring four runs on five hits. Austin Cleaver doubled to lead off the inning, spoiling Francisco's no-hitter. Colton Dawdy fouled out to right field, but advanced Cleaver to third base. A single by Aiden Holliday brought home Olivet's first run of the game. After a pitching change, Olivet rallied with two outs as Calvin pitcher walked a batter and the Comets strung together three hits to bring the score 11-4.
Olivet continued to narrow the gap in the eighth inning scoring five runs on four hits against three Calvin pitchers.
But the Knights responded with six runs in the bottom of the inning to make up for the runs they gave up. Stewart led off with a single to right field and Houts followed with a homer over the left field fence to clear the bases. The Knights' remaining six hits came off the bats of Marshall, Salgado, Wolfe, Miles Kuperus (Grand Rapids, MIch./Grand Rapids), Keane and Stewart.
In their last at bat, the Comets came up with two hits for one run, but their comeback effort fell short as they were unable to overcome the eight-run deficit.
Mike Kempton led the Knights' offense as he went 5-5 from the plate, including a double and a pair of RBIs.
Trevor VanDuyn (Jenison, MIch./Jenison) earned the save on the mound for the Knights, his sixth of the year. Olivet's Huston Snyder took the loss.
Next weekend, the Knights will continue their quest for a place in the MIAA Tournament when they take on Kalamazoo in another four-game series. Calvin will host the Hornets next Friday to kick off the series. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.