Gutsy Performance from Hinkle Propels Blue Hens to 3-2 Victory Over Northeastern as Delaware Staves Off Elimination in CAA Tournament
WILMINGTON, N.C. - The University of Delaware baseball team lost to William & Mary 11-4 in the afternoon, but was able to survive and advance in the nightcap as the Blue Hens defeated Northeastern 3-2 during the second day of the Colonial Athletic Association Championships Thursday at UNCW's Brooks Field.
The No. 4 seed Blue Hens (26-26), who defeated No. 5 seed Northeastern for the second time in two days, remained alive in the double elimination tournament and will look to stay in contention for the league crown Friday when they take on host and No. 3 seed UNCW in another elimination game at 3:30 p.m. Senior Connor Hibbs (1-2) will take the mound for the Blue Hens.
In Delaware’s second game of the day, the Blue Hens scored all their runs in the second inning and that was enough to defeat Northeastern for the fifth time without a loss this season.
Delaware senior left-hander Brandon Hinkle (5-1), making just his second start since April 5 due to arm trouble, threw a masterpiece to earn his fifth victory of the year and keep the Hens’ CAA Championship hopes alive. Hinkle gutted out eight-plus innings and allowed just two runs. The lefty tossed 137 pitches and struck out four Husky batters.
Northeastern starter Dustin Hunt (6-1) was pulled after 3.1 innings and suffered his first loss of his collegiate career.
“What an impressive performance from Hinkle,” said Delaware head coach Jim Sherman. “You know these games against Northeastern are going to be dog fights and this was no different. I am proud of the way we competed and I cannot say enough about what Hinkle did out there. That was a special performance.”
Although Hinkle eventually found his groove, his start was inauspicious as he gave up two runs in the first inning and walked four batters in the first three frames.
Northeastern (26-29) was able to strike early with a two-run first inning. Brad Burcroff provided the pop for the Husky lineup as the first baseman drove in the first two runs on a double to left field.
The Blue Hens quickly answered with a three-run second inning that was highlighted by a Ty Warrington (above left) double. Those runs would be the only ones needed for the Blue Hens to advance.
After Hunt was pulled in the fourth inning, Husky pitchers James Mulry and Mike Fitzgerald combined to pitch the final 5.1 innings and only allowed two hits.
At one point, Hinkle was able to retire eight Northeastern batters in a row and did not face a serious threat until Burcroff led off the eighth inning with a double. Using the composure only found in the veteran presence of a fifth-year senior, Hinkle calmly retired the side and quelled the Husky threat.
“It was obviously a rough start tonight,” said the Lancaster, Pa. (Hempfield HS) native. “Once I settled in, I really started making good pitches and felt good out there. I have not started many games recently, but I really felt dialed in out there after the first few innings.”
Hinkle came out for the ninth inning, but was pulled in favor of Luke Alicknavitch after he gave up a leadoff single. Alicknavitch came in and retired the next three Husky hitters in order to earn his sixth save of the season.
Delaware senior shortstop E.J. Stoltzfus led the offensive effort for the Blue Hens with three hits in the game. The senior has had a multi-hit game in each game of the CAA championship.
In Delaware’s first game of the day, top-seed William & Mary showed why it has one of the best offensive attacks in the country as the Tribe bats overwhelmed Delaware’s pitching and defeated the Blue Hens 11-4 in the second round.
“William & Mary is a strong offensive team and they took full advantage of our mistakes today,” said Sherman. “We knocked their guy around pretty good too and had our fair share of opportunities, but just could not capitalize.”
Chad Martin took the loss for Delaware as the freshman gave up seven earned runs and allowed six walks in 5.1 innings of work. Jason Inghram earned the victory for the Tribe. The righty allowed a season-high 14 hits but was able to limit the damage in the run column.
The game was a story of missed opportunities for the Blue Hens offense as UD was able to bash out 14 hits, but was able to score just four runs and left nine runners on base.
The Blue Hens drew first blood in the first inning on a Jake Clark two-run double to give Delaware the early lead. The Tribe (33-20) did not waste any time answering as Ryan Hissey tied the game with a two-run home run in the bottom half of the first. William & Mary then scored three more runs in the bottom of the second to take a 5-2 lead.
Zach Lopes tightened the margin with a two-run home run- his first round-tripper of the season - in the third inning, but those would be the last runs the Blue Hens would score.
The Tribe added one run in the third and sixth innings before breaking the game open on a Josh Smith grand slam off John Geffre in the seventh inning. The home run was Smith’s first dinger of the season.
Delaware was able to keep potent hitters like CAA Player of the Year Michael Katz and Nick Thompson in check, but it was the bottom half of William & Mary’s order that proved to be trouble for the Blue Hens. The top three hitters in the Tribe’s order went a combined 1-for-11 with no RBI, while William & Mary’s eight and nine hitters each had four RBI in the game.
Six Blue Hen batters recorded multi-hit games, while Lopes and Clark led UD with two RBI each.
Hissey led the Tribe’s effort with four hits on the game, while Smith and Tim Hoehn each had a team-high four RBI in the winning effort. Hoehn also matched his season total with two rounder trippers for the Tribe.