Bluffton remains in hunt for HCAC tournament spot; Buckingham closing in on career hits recordBy Tim Stried
April 8, 2002
With a 9-8 win over front-runner Anderson University on Saturday, the Bluffton College baseball team kept their hold on the fifth spot in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference as the Beavers approach the midway point of the 2002 season.
Bluffton now sets their sights on this weekend's HCAC opponent, Manchester College, who also just happens to currently occupy that fourth spot in the league rankings. The Beavers will travel to Manchester on Friday for a nine-inning game, which will be followed by a double-header at Bluffton's Sears Field beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday. At the close of the regular season, the top four teams in the HCAC standings qualify for the post-season league tournament.
After suffering a 12-1 loss to Anderson last Friday, BC came back to take a 9-8 victory over the Ravens in Bluffton in the first game of a double-header on Saturday to hand AU their first HCAC loss of the season. Anderson took the second game 4-0 to improve to 17-4 on the season, while Bluffton is now 6-15 overall and 3-6 in the conference.
Leading the way for Bluffton's charge is senior centerfielder Brad Buckingham, who has now collected 149 hits in his career at BC, which ties him for second all-time with John Holzwart, a 1998 BC graduate. Buckingham is just four hits away from tying the career hits record of 153 set by Matt Henderson from 1987-90.
With at least two hits in every game against Anderson, Buckingham extended his current hitting streak to 10 games and his season batting average to a team-best .424. He also leads BC in hits (28), runs scored (18), RBIs (13) and slugging percentage (.576).
In Bluffton's win over Anderson, sophomore Bob Heitkamp worked the first six innings to collect the win and junior Wes Hall came on in the seventh to pick up his first save of the season. The BC offense exploded for eight runs in the fourth inning to take a 9-3 lead, which couldn't be overtaken despite five runs in their final two at bats from Anderson.
Hall pitched all seven innings in the second game on Saturday and allowed just two earned runs, but the BC offense was held without a run despite out-hitting Anderson 8-7.
On Thursday, BC came from behind to top Earlham 10-6 as Buckingham slugged four base hits and sophomore Dan Crider homered. Sophomores Kyle Alberson and Scott Van Eman each knocked two base hits, while freshmen Jason Moore and Brad Moore combined to strikeout eight batters from the mound.
Senior Todd Pickthorn is also climbing the career hits list, as he now has 133 base knocks for fifth place all-time. He's hitting .315 this season, while other offensive leaders include sophomore Jim Dwenger (.360), Alberson (.345, 12 RBI), sophomore Josh Underwood (.286) and sophomore Bob Heitkamp (.278).
Special to: The Bluffton News, The Witmarsum