RICHMOND, Indiana-- The Mount St. Joseph baseball team qualified for the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference in 2017 for the first time since the 2009 season. It was an outstanding season for the Lions, and they would ensure their stay in the tournament would not be a short one.
In the Lions opening game of the tournament they would take on the second seeded Spartans of Manchester. They sent ace Alex Wagner (West Chester, OH/Lakota West) to the hill in game one, and while Wagner did not have his best stuff he gave them a chance to win the game. The Lions were held scoreless through the first four innings. Then trailing 3-0 the struck for six runs over the next three innings. Taking a lead into the 6-5 lead into the bottom of the eighth innings. Manchester fought back with two in the bottom of the eight to take the lead again, and would hold on to take the opening win.
After the loss the Lions had to square of with Rose-Hulman who had been defeated by Earlham the day before. In this game they sent Austin Richey (Cincinnati, OH/Cincinnati Country Day) to the hill. Richey delivered what may have been his best start of the season. The biggest play of this game came in the 6th inning with the score tied at one. Thats when Nate Hunter (Vevay, IN/Switzerland County) stepped to the plate and drove a ball over the fence in right field to give the Lions a 2-1 lead. They would tack on one more run in the 8th inning to take a 3-1. Closer Matt Hofmann (Cincinnati, OH/Elder) got the final five outs of the game for his 8th save in as many chances.
With the win the Lions earned a rematch later in the day against Manchester. Zak Farmer (Hamilton, OH/Lakota West) would toe the rubber in this game for the Lions. Again they got an outstanding pitching performance. Farmer struck out eight Spartans in his 6.1 innings of work allowing only two earned runs. Malik Zuberi (Cincinnati, OH/Lakota West) and Hofmann combined for 2.2 innings of one hit baseball out of the Lions bullpen. Zuberi earned the win and Hofmann the save for their performances. As was the case for much of the tournament the Lions were not dominant on offense, but did just enough to get the 4-2 win.
Mount St. Joseph would go into Championship Saturday with a depleted pitching staff, along with having to beat the regular season HCAC champions twice on their home field to win the championship. That would prove to be a little to much for our Lions to overcome. Though they did not go down without a fight. Mike Hilliard (Loveland, OH/Clinton Massie) took the ball for the Lions and in true Mount fashion he gave them every single bit he had. He was a bit erratic with his control walking five Quakers in the game. He gave the Lions a chance though not allowing more than one run in any inning, stranding six Earlham baserunners. The Lions did a decent job getting to the Earlham starter scoring two runs in the first five innings. As of late the Lions have had a knack of scoring runs late in the game. In this one though the Earlham bullpen held the Lions offense down, winning the game and the HCAC title 5-2.
For their performances Hofmann and Hunter were named to the HCAC all-tournament team.