ADRIAN, Mich. – The fourth-ranked College of Wooster baseball team manufactured the go-ahead run on the bases in the bottom of the sixth inning, and the Fighting Scots captured their sixth regional championship with a 4-2 win over North Coast Athletic Conference rival Wabash College on Monday at Adrian College's Nicolay Field. With the win, the Fighting Scots punched a ticket to this week's eight-team NCAA Div. III Baseball Championships at Fox Cities Stadium in Appleton, Wis. with action slated to start on Friday.
"It was a great game," said head coach Tim Pettorini. "I thought it was really well played on both sides. Big credit to Wabash's pitcher. I know he came back on short rest, but he went out and competed really hard against us. Our guys were better. We really did a great job. We got down a run. I don't think there was any panic. We were very businesslike, they continued to stay at home plate and battle. The guys we put in the game pitching-wise all came through starting with Evan. He just did a great job for a first-year in his third start of the year. Then Wyatt, Nanak, and then what can you say about Andrew, to close them down like that was big-time."
|Wooster won the Mideast Regional for the first time since 2009, and that win also came at Adrian's Nicolay Field.|
Junior Michael Wielansky scored the go-ahead run in the sixth inning with two outs. Prior to that, classmate Garrett Crum broke for second intentionally in an effort to get Wabash (32-17) starter Cody Cochran to balk. The Little Giants' senior right-hander stayed poised, and Crum and Wielansky worked together to hustle safely back to first and third base respectively. Prior to the next pitch, Crum was off to the big lead at first base in an effort to draw a throw from Cochran, and the Little Giants' pitchers obliged, but skipped the toss past first baseman Jackson Blevins which enabled Wielansky to score easily.
Prior to the theatrics on the bases, Crum's one-out RBI single tied the game up. The Scots' (40-8) first baseman smoked a grounder past shortstop Eric Chavez, who was playing in trying to cut off a grounder and prevent senior Jake Fling from scoring. Earlier in the inning it was Chavez's throwing error that had Wooster in business, as Fling reached on the miscue. Wielansky followed suit with a single through the left side, and the base knock marked the team's 641st of the season, and Wooster broke the 2009 squad's mark for the most hits in a season in program history.
Wabash nearly tied the game up at two in the top of the seventh inning, but senior Drew Tornow got to a Henry Wannemuehler single quickly forcing Chavez to slam the brakes on rounding third base. Jared Wolfe flied out to sophomore Dan Harwood in left field to end the threat.
Wooster added a run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Fling's bloop single found the outfield turf, and sophomore Harry Witwer-Dukes came in to make it a 3-1 game.
Wabash pulled within one in the top of the eighth inning with four walks, and nearly tied the game up, but thanks to the play of junior Jacob Stuursma, the Scots escaped further damage. On the inning-ending fielder's choice, Wielansky's throw nearly pulled Stuursma off the bag, but the junior second baseman extended far enough to keep the foot on the bag and Wooster in the lead.
Wooster picked the run back up in the bottom of the inning. In that frame, Wielansky led off with his program-record 18th career three-bagger and sophomore Nick Strausbaugh lifted a sacrifice fly out to left field to make it a 4-2 ball game.
"Getting the run in the bottom of the eighth to push ahead two runs (was the biggest key in the game," said Pettorini. "When you're trotting a freshman out there, it's a little nerve-wracking. He hit the guy in the ninth inning with the first pitch he threw. I know he's a little amped up. So, getting that run and having the two-run cushion there was really important for us."
Wooster's defense kept Wabash off the scoreboard until the fifth inning. In the first inning, first-year starting pitcher Evan Faxon surrendered a leadoff double off the top of the left field fence, but the rookie's beat on a slow chopper on the left side of the infield led to a 1-3-6 double play after Sean Roginski tried to advance to third on Faxon's throw to first to retire Bryce Aldridge.
In the fifth inning, Harwood's cleat caught in the turf, but the left fielder remained composed to snare a quick-sinking liner after the first two Little Giants reached safely. After, Wolfe was jammed on a 1-2 offering from junior Wyatt Linde, but mustered the pitch into left field to plate the game's first run. Wooster's bullpen ace induced a 5-4-3 inning-ending twin killer after surrendering the lead.
Wooster's best scoring threat prior to the sixth inning came in the second frame, as the Scots loaded the bases, but it was Cochran's turn to induce an inning-ending twin killer.
Crum and Wielansky led the way offensively by combining to go 5-for-8 with two runs and a RBI. Noteworthy, Wielansky's two runs upped his season total to 76, the third-most in program history.
Senior Nanak Saran picked up the win to improve to 9-2 on the year. The right-hander allowed one run on two hits in 2 2/3 innings of relief. First-year Andrew Hill struck out three over the final 1 1/3 innings and earned his third save.
Chavez had two of Wabash's seven hits.
Coincidentally, this is Wooster's first regional championship since 2009, and that win came at Adrian's Nicolay Field. Wooster was also the regional champion in 1989, 1994, 1997, and 2005.
Wielansky was tabbed as the regional's most outstanding player 9-for-18 with seven runs and five RBI. The Scots' shortstop was joined on the all-tournament team by junior Chandler Dippman, junior Brian Murray, and Tornow.