Franklin College baseball excels on the road
Given the price of gas, the timing doesn’t seem ideal for Franklin College baseball to only play games on the road.
Travel costs aside, it seems to work.
With renovations to the Grizzlies’ baseball facilities taking longer than originally planned, coach Lance Marshall’s ball club has played all of its 40 games this season off campus.
The diamonds on which they have been the designated home team include four Indianapolis-area high schools — Center Grove, Bishop Chatard, Cascade and Beech Grove — as well as Grand Park in Westfield and the 4,000-seat Kokomo Municipal Stadium.
By the time the regular season dust cleared, Franklin College held a 28-12 record and was atop the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference standings with a 13-5 league mark.
The HCAC tournament begins Thursday in Kokomo with the Grizzlies seeded first and will face the winner of the Anderson-Hanover game at 6:30 p.m. Earlham and Rose-Hulman round out the five-team squad for the double-elimination tournament.
“We talked at the start of the year about having a road warrior mentality,” Marshall said. “I think it finally made us stronger and ready to compete with anyone. The best thing about this group is that they have been absolutely resilient and tough. They won games by taking the lead and extending it, and also by overcoming significant deficits.
Marshall is referring to a mid-April game at Center Grove against Manchester in which the Spartans led, 7-1, going into the bottom of the eighth inning. The Grizzlies scored five points in the eighth, added another in the ninth and two more in the 10th to win, 9-8.
Last weekend, the Grizzlies captured the HCAC regular season title with a pair of wins in Hanover, 11-6, 9-6. Eighteen of the team’s 20 runs that day came in the fifth inning or later, another example of his ability to become more dangerous as the game progressed.
“Obviously you want to be home, but it’s kind of fun to play in some of the places we’ve played,” senior receiver Logan Demkovich said. “Center Grove is really nice, and Kokomo is kind of like Grand Park, only a bit smaller. And our fans have been really good in terms of support.
These are not uncharted waters for Marshall’s program.
In 2018, Franklin College pieced together a 39-5 season that culminated in a trip to NCAA Central Regional in Sauget, Illinois. The following season again ended with another regional appearance, this time in Seguin, Texas, and a 31-15 record.
This is the sixth consecutive winning campaign for the program, including the COVID-abbreviated 2020 season in which Franklin College won five of eight games.
Last season’s 25-14 club failed to make it out of the conference tournament, giving current Grizzlies players plenty of motivation this time around.
“We knew we had a lot of new faces and we had development and growth that needed to take place,” Marshall said.
He was more than satisfied with the results.
Individually, second AJ Sanders set a new school single-season record in stolen bases with 27. Senior pitcher Alex Reinoehl put his name in the record books with 10 saves, while Demkovich raised the bar for home runs in a season (19) and RBI (61).
Junior Tysen Lipscomb (.348, 10 doubles), soph outfielder Sean Sullivan (.321, 22 interceptions) and freshman Matt Earley (.331, 13 doubles) also benefited from banner campaigns.
Senior Nick McClanahan (5-0, 3.02 ERA) is the ace of the pitching staff with Reinoehl there to shut down when needed. In between, the Grizzlies can use the talents of many pitchers, including Center Grove products Jackson Young and Chris Foote. Junior Tyler Wick, a Whiteland alum, is also an option.