Central Christian College pitcher Ruggeri Thomas was working on a shutout heading into the seventh inning. Unfortunately for the junior pitcher, his counterpart, Dordt College’s Connor Hopkins, was matching him step for step.
Friday’s game between the Tigers and the Defenders was scoreless heading into the seventh inning. Thomas got the first out with ease; the rest of the inning did not follow suit.
An error, a pair of passed balls, and some timely hitting was all part of a four-run inning for Dordt, which was ultimately all they needed to hang on for a 5-3 victory at Light Capital Stadium on Friday. The Tigers rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth, but went down quietly in the ninth to drop to 7-19 on the season.
CCC made some noise in the bottom of the first inning, but left two men on base, including one in scoring position. Dordt answered with a little noise of its own in the top of the second, but Thomas was able to overcome an error from his defense, and escape a second and third with one out situation to get out of the inning unharmed.
Both starting pitchers settled in from there. Each team had runners in scoring position in the sixth inning, only to be stranded there at the end.
The seventh inning broke the game wide open.
Dordt got things rolling with a one-out single to right field. The inning could have ended with the next batter, who grounded one back up the middle to Thomas.
Thomas did not field the routine chopper cleanly, eliminating a double play opportunity, and then hurried a wild throw that first-baseman Laramie Lumley could not handle.
The mayhem resulted with runners on second and third with one out. The very next pitch got away from Thomas, and CCC catcher Troy Carrigan, resulting in a wild pitch and the game’s first run.
Thomas rebounded by striking out the next batter, and was one strike away from getting out of the inning with minimal damage, but a 3-2 pitch was smacked to right field for an RBI single. Thomas would allow two more runs, both unearned, before Zane Howard came on in relief to get the final out.
After a scoreless bottom of the seventh, Howard came back strong in the eighth to set the Defenders down in order. The CCC offense, sensing its chances were becoming limited, knocked Hopkins out of the game with three runs in the bottom half of the eighth.
Caleb Gorman led things off by getting hit by a pitch for a free base. After a passed ball advanced Gorman to second, Mario Rivera knocked him home with a hard hit ball past the second-baseman.
A pair of sacrifice flies by Howard and Hunter Wilcher cut the lead to 4-3 by the end of the inning.
However, three straight singles, all with two outs, tacked on one more run for Dordt in the top of the ninth. Shomari Cann’s single was the only offense the Tigers could muster in the bottom of the ninth as they dropped game one of the double header.
Thomas went 6.2 innings while allowing seven hits and four runs (zero earned). Dordt’s Hopkins went seven full innings, allowing three hits while striking out 12.
Dordt held a distinct 11-4 advantage in hits. Cann and Nate Patterson both went 2-for-4, accounting for all of the CCC hits.
The Tigers take on Dordt again at Light Capital starting at noon on Saturday. The two teams will play two, seven-inning games.