Dugan Darnell Helps Lead Bu11dogs to 2019 MIAA Baseball Championship

The 2019 MIAA baseball champion Adrian Bulldogs celebrate another dogpile, defeating Hope, 5-2, to begin a four-game conference series. (Action photo by Mike Dickie)
The 2019 MIAA baseball champion Adrian Bulldogs celebrate another dogpile, defeating Hope, 5-2, to begin a four-game conference series. (Action photo by Mike Dickie)

ADRIAN, Mich.—Senior Dugan Darnell hit the first grand slam by a Bulldog in three years and earned his fourth career save to power host Adrian to a 5-2 Game 1 victory Friday over second-place Hope, clinching its 11th Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association baseball championship in a row. The Bulldogs put up crooked numbers in two innings on the way to a 10-6 win in the nightcap.

THE BASICS
= Final Scorelines: Game 1—Adrian College 5-4-1, Hope College 2-6-0; Game 2—Adrian 10-11-0, Hope 6-13-2

= Location: Location: Nicolay Field, Adrian, Mich.; Weather: Cloudy, 49F, Wind NE 9 mph

= Records: Adrian Bulldogs 31-6 overall (23-3 MIAA); Hope Flying Dutchmen 28-8 overall (18-8 MIAA)

= National Rankings:  Adrian is No. 14 by the American Baseball Coaches Association/Collegiate Baseball Newspaper (251 points) and No. 11 in the D3baseball.com/National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (309) poll; AC's NCAA Mideast Regional Ranking: No. 6; Hope is No. 29 in the ABCA/CBN poll and "receiving votes" by D3baseball/NCBWA.

TOP 'DAWGS
= Darnell had four runs batted in and struck out the side in the seventh to secure the save in Game 1. He earned another save in the second game.

= Junior Gunner Rainey was 2-for-4, including a double, with a walk and RBI. Rainey added two more hits (double) in Game 2.

= Freshman Maxwell Denny improved to 9-0 on the season after pitching six innings. He allowed two runs (1 earned), scattered six hits and walked two with three strikeouts.

= Junior pitcher Pierce Banks is now 7-2 after working around five walks and seven hits in 5.1 innings.

= Seniors Zack Zschering (2 doubles) and Chad Paddock had three and two hits, respectively, in the nightcap. 

= Sophomore Thomas Miller drove in three runs and had a double in Game 2.

THE OPPOSITION
= Evan Maday rapped two hits in the opener and Nick Lepore added a double.

= In Game 2, Lepore added three more hits while Jordon Fairchild had two hits (double) and three walks.

= Evan Becker went 2-for-5 with two runs scored and three RBI.

= Brant Kym and Joey Merucci chipped in two hits apiece in the second contest. 

HOW IT HAPPENED, Game 1
= The visiting Flying Dutchmen took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Maday scored on a throwing error by Rainey. Maday reached on a single to right field, stole second base and then third, rounding the bag when Rainey's attempted throw to get him out went into left field.

= Adrian got on the scoreboard on a big way in the bottom of the third when Darnell hit his first career grand slam over the wall in center field. Setting the stage for Darnell's at-bat were Zschering and Rainey reaching on walks and junior Brady Wood getting a single to right field. 

= The Bulldogs stretched the lead to 5-1 in the fourth on a Rainey RBI-single to left center.

= Hope scored its last run of the contest in the fifth when Fairchild homered to right field.

= The Flying Dutchmen had a golden chance to add to its 1-0 lead at the time in the third. After one out, Fairchild walked and Trace Slancik singled through the right side. They moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch, but Denny got out of the jam by inducing a lineout double play by Maday to center field.

HOW IT HAPPENED, Game 2
= Adrian got off to a fast 4-0 start in the first inning and scored five times in the fourth to make it 9-3, never looking back. 

= Rainey and Darnell had RBI doubles to highlight the opening stanza.

= The Flying Dutchmen closed to within 4-3 in the fourth on a Becker RBI-fielder's choice and two-run double to right field off Fairchild's bat.

= Adrian, however, had an immediate response with five runs in the bottom half, sparked by Miller's bases-clearing double to the gap in left center.

= Hope left 14 runners on base.

= With two runs already in during the ninth, Hope had runners on first and second with two outs. Darnell entered the contest with the potential tying run on-deck and a four-run lead, but ended the game when he struck out Slancik swinging.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE
= Between the games, the Adrian senior class of nine student-athletes and two student assistant coaches were honored for their contributions to the program: four MIAA championships, two NCAA Tournament appearances, two conference tournament titles, 130 overall victories and .855 winning percentage in conference games.

= Adrian has eclipsed the 30-win mark for the 12th consecutive season.

= Darnell is the first AC hitter to connect on a grand slam since Korey Mazur on March 5, 2015, against Blackburn. He also is tied for the MIAA lead with a career-best five saves, which are second in school history and the most since 2015.

= Denny ties Eric Schmidt's freshman pitching record by winning his first nine decisions. Schmidt established the mark of 9-0 in 2012.

= Hope leads the all-time series, 96-79, but Adrian is 23-10 over the last 33 meetings.

= Adrian has won the regular-season outright in 10 of those 11 straight seasons and owns the conference record for consecutive titles.

= The Bulldogs have won 10 games in a row to match their longest winning streak of the spring.

= Rainey takes over the MIAA batting race with a .428 average.

= Miller and Rainey are tied atop the conference with 44 RBI apiece. Rainey has 100 career RBIs and is the Bulldogs' active leader in that category.

= Denny and Banks rank 1-2 on the MIAA victories chart. Denny has the conference's best earned-run average at 1.43. Banks is second with 54 strikeouts.

= Fairchild has nine home runs to pace the conference and Maday has a MIAA-best 26 stolen bases.

UP NEXT
= Adrian and Hope are scheduled to play a doubleheader in Holland on Saturday (1 p.m.), concluding the regular season for both teams.

#AdrianBulldogs #GoDawgs #BulldogProud (Photos below by Mike Dickie)