Julian Clutch Hit Helps Norse Rally Past Muskegon

Click the AUDIO button to hear comments from Bay College sophomore Blake Julian. Photos by Cohen Thompson.

The Bay College Norse baseball team scored six unanswered runs in the final two innings to rally past the Muskegon Community College Jayhawks, 11-9, in the opening game of a four-game conference series Thursday in Muskegon.

Iron Mountain native Blake Julian had the clutch hit, a three-run double in the top of the seventh inning, that gave the Norse the lead. He ended up with three hits in the game, and a total of four runs batted in. All four came in the final two innings.

“So, it came down to two strikes, and there was one out, and there were a couple guys on base,” Julian said. “I just knew I had to put the ball in play. I didn't want to be nervous or anything. It was a tough situation, but I just put the bat out there and I hit the ball. It worked out.”

It did after Andres Franco came on to pitch the bottom of the seventh inning. He earned the save by retiring all three men he faced, striking out two of the batters.

Julian had the huge hit in the seventh inning, but Franco was also a big part of the game, getting three hits and driving in two runs to go along with his pitching save. Zach Gibson also had three hits and drove in three runs for the Norse, who overcame making five errors on defense. Muskegon also made five errors in a typical late-March game.

Three walks in the top of the seventh inning set the table for Julian's big hit.

“The whole game, it was back-and-forth,” Julian said. “It just came down to the final innings and guys had selective at-bats up there, getting on base. A good job by the offense and the defense.”

The unsung hero of the game was Jake Sager, who pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, retiring all four men he faced. That kept the Norse within 9-5, giving them a chance to rally at the end. Sager earned the pitching victory in relief of Hunter Ballantyne, who gave up nine runs (only four earned) in 4 2/3 innings of work.

Brock Thornton had three hits for Muskegon. The Jayhawks used three pitchers, with starter Curtis Ellis giving up eight runs on ten hits in 5 2/3 innings. Reliever Garrit Lyski took the loss, walking three guys in the seventh inning and that big hit by Julian.

In the second game, Bay fell behind early, 2-0, before getting RBI from Franco and Gibson in the top of the third inning to tie the game. Muskegon regained the lead in the bottom of the third inning, and the Norse couldn't get that big hit to complete the sweep.

“I felt like we could have got two,” Norse Coach Mike Pankow said. “They had a nice little lefty (Christian Hoffman) and we missed some opportunities. We have to settle for the split and try to sweep tomorrow.”

The Norse made five more errors in the game, leading to two unearned runs against pitcher T.J. Rijpstra, who deserved a better fate. He scattered five base hits and struck out eight batters over five innings of work, and walked only one batter.

Escanaba native Scottie Hiller pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning in relief for Bay.

Muskegon's Hoffman pitched a seven-inning complete game to earn the win. He allowed six hits and three walks, but both runs against him were unearned.

Bay College, which has never won more than nine games in a season in program history, now has eight (8-6 overall, 1-1 MCCAA). Muskegon is now 2-9 overall, 1-1 MCCAA.

The two teams play another doubleheader on Friday, starting at 2:00. You can click the video link at

BAY COLLEGE SOFTBALL DROPS TWO GAMES---The Norse women's softball team fell to 0-9 on the season after opening the MCCAA schedule with a pair of 9-1 losses to Muskegon Community College Thursday in Muskegon.

In the first game, Ava Mottin had two hits and Bay's only RBI. Izzy Drabant took the loss, giving up four runs (one earned) on six hits in two innings in the circle. Allie Radcliffe threw the final three innings, allowing five runs on six hits.

In the nightcap,  Hallie Duquaine took the loss in the circle, giving up seven runs on eight hits in three innings of work. Radcliffe finished up the final inning before the nercy rule kicked in. Zoe Rumble had a hit and the only RBI of the game for the Norse.

The two teams play again in another doubelehader Friday, starting at 2:00.

LISTEN: Blake Julian post-game comments