INDIANAPOLIS - Baseball is a funny game. That statement was never more true for the Butler baseball team Sunday, as it played a pair of bizarre 7-inning games against Milwaukee at Bulldog Park. BU got a gem from junior Mike Hernandez for a 2-1 win before the two teams played into the day's rainy darkness. The end result was an 11-11 tie in the nightcap, which was called after seven innings.
The doubleheader against the Panthers featured almost everything the game of baseball can provide. Hernandez threw the day's first pitch at 12:47 p.m. Milwaukee's Greg Blohowiak threw the last pitch at 7:59 p.m. There were 31 hits, 11 errors (eight in the second game), a Senior Day ceremony, a 74-minute rain delay, a catcher's interference and weather that was befitting of early March, causing the start of the doubleheader to be delayed.
In the end, Butler finished off a 4-0-1 week and moved up one spot in the Horizon League standings. Four games remain in the regular season, all played in the state of Ohio. BU will go to Cincinnati Tuesday, May 17 before concluding its regular season with three games at Wright State May 19-20.
The wild doubleheader featured two milestones for Butler baseball history. Butler's win was its 1200th as a varsity program, while the tie in the nightcap was the 10th tie in Butler baseball history. The Bulldogs' last tie in baseball was May 11, 1993 in a 3-3 game vs. Valparaiso. That game was also the second of a doubleheader.
Hernandez was the story of the day's first game. The right-hander pitched a complete game, going seven innings and allowing just one run. He took a shutout into the top of the 7th before Milwaukee scratched a run across the plate. Hernandez (4-5) scattered six hits and struck out eight with no walks.
With Hernandez sharp, two runs was all the Dawgs would need. Senior Luke Duncan gave Butler a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 3rd when he singled and then scored on a sac fly by junior Mike Hoscheit. The game continued to be tight as Hernandez went pitch-for-pitch with Milwaukee's Jordan Guth.
In the bottom of the 6th, senior Kyle Waggoner struck out swinging but would reach first base on a wild pitch. On the same play, freshman Pat Guinane was thrown out trying to advance to third base. After a pitching change, senior Jack Krause smacked a double to right field. Waggoner scored from first on the play to give Butler a 2-0 lead. Milwaukee scored its lone run and threatened in the 7th, but Hernandez slammed the door shut on UWM's comeback.
The second game of the day is where things stopped making sense. Milwaukee led 4-0 in the 4th inning when the game was stopped for a rain delay. Seventy-four minutes later, play resumed. That's when Butler took control.
With Milwaukee leading 6-1, BU exploded for six runs in the bottom of the 5th. The first two batters reached before junior Nick Hladek lifted an RBI double into the gap to make it 6-2. After another walk, Butler had the bases loaded an nobody out when Milwaukee made a pitching change. Junior Griffin Richeson welcomed the new UWM pitcher with an RBI single, leaving the bases loaded still. Butler scored another run on an error moments later to pull within 6-4.
A sac fly by Hoscheit and an RBI single by Guinane concluded the big inning for Butler. Eleven batters went to the plate and now BU owned a 7-6 lead.
With the gray skies and continued rain complicating play, the two teams continued to battle. Each squad scored twice in the 6th, and it became clear just more inning would be played. Butler held on to a 9-8 lead.
A pair of RBI singles by Milwaukee would give UWM a 10-9 lead, and the Panthers added another run in the 7th when Mark Strey scored on a wild pitch. Butler had three outs left, the sky was dark and the Bulldogs trailed 11-9.
Guinane led off the inning with a single and then advanced to second on a groundout. Senior Corey Moylan then walked. After a pitching change and a pinch-hitter chess match involving the two teams' head coaches, Butler got the match-up it wanted. Freshman Zach Sizemore came off the bench and battled through a long at-bat to get on base with a walk. The bases were now loaded with one out.
Sophomore Andrew Eckhardt then flipped a grounder to third base. Milwaukee got a force at home and then the UWM catcher threw to first, but his throw sailed into the right-field bullpen. Butler scored two runs on the error, Eckhardt motored to third base and the game was tied. Sophomore Bob Akin came in as a pinch hitter with the winning run on third but fouled out.
With the score 11-11, Butler was ready to play on to the 8th inning but the game was called due to darkness. A game that lasted 4 hours, 17 minutes ended in a tie.
Guinane led Butler with a 3-for-4 effort. Senior Michael Letzter hit a home run, his team-leading sixth of the season, and senior Grant Fillipitch added three RBIs. Hladek and Richeson each scored two runs. Milwaukee was led by Chad Pierce's 3-for-4 effort while five other Panthers each collected two hits.