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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Blue Hens hold off Vikings, end fall season on a high

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Courtesy of Mark Campbell/Delaware Athletics
The Blue Hens edged out Mercer, 4-3, in their second of two fall games. Their focus now shifts to the spring season, which starts in February.

BY
Staff Reporter

As the fall season came to a conclusion, fans took to the seats of Bob Hannah Stadium hoping to see the Blue Hens baseball team grab one last win. Delaware’s ultimate 4-3 win in the Oct. 16 contest fulfilled these hopes of victory.

Though on the surface the game was a casual fall affair, it was significant for both teams. Both Delaware and Mercer came to play, looking to walk away with an October victory to lead into the spring season.

It was right-handed starting pitcher Chris Ludman on the mound for the Blue Hens. After walking the lead off batter in the top of the first inning and surrendering a ground ball leading to an error, Mercer looked to take the driver seat. 

With runners on first and third and only one out, Ludman got the Vikings’ first baseman Andy Jaquez to ground into the inning-ending 6-4-3 double play, which helped get the crowd going early. 

The Blue Hens jumped on the Vikings early, with infielder JJ Freeman getting the offense going with a lead off base hit. After making it to third base with only one out, sophomore Joey Loyn hit one just far enough into left field where Freeman was able to score via a sacrifice fly, giving Delaware a 1-0 lead after one inning.

The bright spot soon became somewhat of a mute point, however, when newly-entered Blue Hens pitcher Zach Klapak found himself in a jam, with the bases loaded and nobody out. After an unsuccessful double play attempt that surrendered Mercer’s first run, Klapak settled down a bit and was able to get the ground ball again to the shortstop for a successful 6-4-3 double play. Klapak escaped with only one run given up.

After the offensive display by both teams in the first, the pitchers took matters into their own hands and shut things down.  Three straight scoreless innings followed.

That was before Delaware infielder Joseph Carpenter stepped up and sent a missile down the right field line, just making it over the right field fence. Trouble came in the top of the fifth and canceled out Carpenter’s home run, as the Vikings drew a walk, stole a base and came around to score via a double.

After surrendering a home run in the top half of the sixth inning to give Mercer a 3-2 lead, Delaware gave fans one last moment to cheer for this fall, with senior outfielder Aidan Riley kicking off the inning with a hit by pitch, eventually scoring the first of two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to propel the Blue Hens to a 4-3 victory.

Delaware will start the season on the road at Stetson University on Feb. 18 in the Stetson Tournament, playing three games highlighted with a Sunday afternoon affair against Notre Dame.  Action returns to the Bob Hannah Stadium on March 4 with the Blue Hens taking on the Rider Broncos in the first home series of the 2022 season.

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