ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Franklin & Marshall's baseball team split with Muhlenberg on Saturday afternoon in Centennial Conference (CC) competition, winning game one by a 6-3 tally before falling in an 18-16 nightcap that saw the teams combine for 45 hits in an offensive marathon.
With the pair of decisions in the regular-season finale, the Diplomats (21-18-1, 9-8-1 CC) narrowly missed out on one of the Conference's four playoff seeds while the Mules also saw their season come to an end with a 16-20, 6-12 record.
Game one saw F&M once again battle back from an early deficit, as Muhlenberg took the 3-0 lead heading into the fourth. Reed Williams led off the fourth with a double down the left field line and eventually crossed home when Zachary Roberson reached on an infield error to pull the Diplomats within two.
The 3-1 tally held until the seventh when F&M secured its first lead with a three-run frame that was the result of four hits from the Diplomats. Casey Bulik began the offensive attack with a leadoff double.
A Cory Hecht walk and a Justin Cavegn single to left field loaded the bases with one out before Tyler Daley stepped to the dish and laced a RBI single through the right side. Kengo Kawahara followed later in the inning with a two-RBI single that put the Diplomats in front by one.
Holding onto the narrow lead in the ninth, F&M tacked on a pair of key insurance runs by scoring on a wild pitch with runners on first and third and pulling ahead by three with Christopher Vincent's two-out infield single that plated Kawahara.
For the second-straight game, Danny Blugis tossed a scoreless ninth frame, striking out a pair to earn his second save in as many days and his fourth of the year.
Starter Jonathan Cole (4-3) earned the win with eight innings of work and surrendering three earned on six hits while striking out three. R.J. Hennessey (2-3) suffered the loss for Muhlenberg after 6 1/3 innings, allowing three earned on six hits and a pair of walks.
The Diplomats outhit the Mules by a 9-6 margin. Kawahara led the way with a 3-for-4 effort to go along with two RBIs and a run scored, while Vincent went 2-for-5 with one RBI.
Saturday's nightcap was wild from the start. F&M looked to be in control with a 13-7 lead before Muhlenberg tallied five runs in the bottom of the fifth, and placed six runs on the scoreboard in the sixth, to jump in front at 18-13.
The Diplomats refused to go away. Blugis and Hecht notched back-to-back, two-out singles in the eighth, with Hecht's shot scoring Brian Meerholz from second base. In the next at-bat, Daley was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but F&M was unable to cut into the deficit any further after flying out to center.
Down by four runs in the ninth, the Diplomats rallied again by placing a pair in scoring position with two outs. A passed ball allowed a run to come in from third before a Jimmy Whelan walk put runners on the corners. Blugis continued the comeback bid with an infield single that scored Meerholz and dropped the Muhlenberg advantage to just two. However, with the winning run at the plate, F&M popped up to the shortstop to end the game.
Reliever Bobby Gaston was charged with the loss after being charged with two earned in 2/3 innings. Ryan Banks (2-1) recorded the Mules' win with three frames on the mound, allowing one earned on four hits.
Bulik was on fire at the plate with three doubles in a 3-for-6 line to go along with two runs scored and a RBI. Kawahara produced a pair of triples in a 3-for-5 effort with three runs scored and three batted in. Blugis was 4-for-6 with a homer, four RBIs and one runs scored while Reed Williams also went 4-for-6 with four runs scored and a RBI. Vincent, Whelan, and Hecht all added a pair of runs to F&M's total.