N. MANCHESTER, Ind. -- Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology scored four runs in the eighth and three in the ninth to rally from a 5-1 deficit and advance to the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball tournament title round with an 8-7 victory over Manchester University on Friday morning.
With the victory, Rose-Hulman advances to the HCAC title round which begins Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The host Manchester Spartans will face Anderson University at noon in an elimination game, with the winner advancing to the championship round.
If the Fightin' Engineers win Saturday at 3:30 p.m., they will earn their sixth trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament and their first since 2010. If Rose-Hulman falls in Saturday's game, the extra championship game will take place Sunday at noon.
The Fightin' Engineers pounded out 16 hits in the contest and scored four times in the eighth inning to force a 5-5 tie. Rose-Hulman responded with three more runs in the ninth, before Manchester scored twice and loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth. Senior Kevin Farley (Centennial, Colo./Littleton) coaxed Justin Miller into a game ending fly out to left center field, on a running catch by sophomore Patrick Klima (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph's).
The top six hitters in Rose-Hulman's batting order had multiple hits in the contest. Sophomore Kody Alayon (Hammond, Ind./Bishop Noll) and senior Andrew Benitez (Mililani, Hawaii/Mililani) led the offense with three singles each. Benitez scored twice, and Alayon had one run in the contest.
Senior Hank Akard (Indianapolis/Ben Davis) had two singles and scored twice, sophomore Donnie Waters (Franklin, Ind./Franklin) had two hits, three RBIs and scored twice, while sophomore Caleb Kissel (Plainfield, Ill./North) had a single and double on four RBIs.
The biggest hit of the day happened in the top of the ninth with the score tied at 5-5. Kissel blasted a bases loaded, three-run double to left center to bring home three Fightin' Engineers and give Rose-Hulman an 8-5 lead after the top of the ninth.
Rose-Hulman scored four times in the top of the eighth to turn a 5-1 deficit into a 5-5 tie, setting the stage for Kissel's heroics. Akard singled and Benitez doubled to open the rally, before Waters hit a two-run double to left center field. Kissel cut the margin to 5-4 on a single to left field that was misplayed and resulted in the hitter reaching third base. Freshman Zach Trusk (Plainfield, Ill./North) tied the score with a single to right field.
Manchester had 10 hits of their own and a comeback in the ninth inning. Kyle Norris blasted a home run, and Dan Maringer, Elliott Ford and Miller had a pair of hits each for the Spartans. In the ninth, Manchester faced four pitchers and scored twice, before the 8-5 lead was trimmed to 8-7. Farley recorded the final out for his first save.
Sophomore Karson Nixon (Jasper, Ind./Jasper) kept Rose-Hulman within striking distance in a seven-inning performance. Nixon allowed four runs in the first two innings, but held the Spartans to just one run in his last five innings of work with four strikeouts. Sophomore Gunnar Hutchison (Vincennes, Ind./Lincoln) earned his first win of the season with a scoreless eighth.
Rose-Hulman improved to 25-16 on the season, while Manchester dropped to 25-16.