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September 29, 2023

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Dragon slayers

With a little help from the wind yet again, the BG baseball team’s offense exploded against its opponent yesterday.

The Falcons defeated Tiffin University 16-7 in front of 200 fans at Steller Field. An efficient offense and solid pitching performances by BG led to a quick game of two hours and 39 minutes.

In the last 5 games, dating to last week’s win at Xavier, the BG offense has now totaled 67 runs on 80 hits.

Some teams don’t see that kind of production through an entire month.

Thus, it’s no coincidence that the Falcons now sit atop the East division of the Mid-American Conference with an overall record of 16-13 and 6-3 in league games. As a team, the Falcons are now hitting .322, tops in the MAC by nearly 20 percentage points.

While the pitching lingers in the bottom half of the conference rankings, that was also effective against the Dragons (10-14) yesterday. Freshman Brennan Smith threw five innings to earn his first win as a starter, and Phil Hettlinger and Brian Hangbers came on to finish off the last four innings.

‘It was nice for Brennan to get that first W, because one thing we want him to do is be aggressive,’ said BG coach Danny Schmitz. ‘He’s one of our top freshmen pitchers, so we hope this is a confidence builder because we expect big things out of him.’

Travis Owens, who caught all five of Smith’s innings, agreed that the Sandusky, OH native looked strong in his ninth outing of the season.

‘When he had command of his pitches, he did really well,’ Owens said. ‘He has a lot of potential for a freshman.’

Owens, a junior, was the catalyst for one of the more noticeable offensive plays as well.

With two outs in the fifth inning and BG up 9-3, Owens singled. Chris Gacom came up and hit a pop fly to right field, and whether it was the sun or the wind, Tiffin’s right fielder could not make the play. Owens, a co-captain this year, sprinted around from first and scored on the high fly that barely made it out of the infield.

‘That’s what it’s all about. That’s just one reason why he’s one of our captains. He plays the game hard, keeps himself ready, and while he hasn’t played as much as he had hoped this year, he keeps a great attitude on and off the field,’ Schmitz said.

Even though Owens is a captain in his junior year at catcher, freshman Ryan Schlater has started many of the games behind the plate for the Falcons this season. That didn’t seem to matter on this particular hustle play.

‘Coach always teaches us to hustle, so with two outs, I was going on the crack of the bat,’ Owens said.

The rest of the Falcon offense provided many cracks, or pings, on the day as well. Ryan Shay, Dennis Vaughn, and Brandon McFarland each had a home run, though their long flies may have been aided by a strong wind that blew straight out to center all day.

In Tiffin coach Lonny Allen’s opinion, though, that could have helped his team if they had taken advantage like the Falcons did.

‘We got to hit too, but we didn’t get it done,’ Allen said. ‘We didn’t play very well, and when you play a good team like Bowling Green, you can’t make mistakes because they’ll punish you for it.’

Ten of BG’s 12 hitters that have more than 45 plate appearances this season are hitting over .300. Those numbers only went up yesterday, as Andrew Foster had four hits, Frank Berry and Clay Duncan each had three, and Ryan Shay went a perfect 2-for-2 as a late-inning substitution to raise his average to .387.

A potent offense is now leading the way for a decent pitching staff to get the Falcons rolling in fine mid-season form.

Tiffin’s only big offensive flurry came in the 7th inning off of Hettlinger. He allowed the first four Dragons to reach base and score, but tidily set down the four, five, and six hitters in order to end any real threat of a Falcon collapse.

Tomorrow, BG takes its bats up I-75 to face the University of Toledo at 3 p.m. The Rockets’ pitching staff is next to last in the MAC this season, so expect more Falcon fireworks at the plate.

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