Fifth-Ranked Fighting Scots Held in Check as Cardinals Take Two, 3-1, 14-6

Michael Wielansky

WOOSTER, Ohio – Sophomore Michael Wielansky hit his team-leading eighth home run of the year in the bottom of the fifth inning to put the fifth-ranked College of Wooster baseball team on the board in the nightcap, but the Otterbein University pitching staff kept the Fighting Scots bats in check as the Cardinals swept the Scots 3-1 and 14-6 on Wednesday afternoon at Art Murray Field.

Otterbein (26-12), who ranked fourth nationally in Div. III with a 2.81 ERA entering the day, really kept Wooster's (29-8) high-scoring offense off balance, especially in the first game as Cardinal starter Johnny Putnam (6-2) went 8 1/3 innings allowing a run on six hits – half of which came in the ninth inning – while striking out six.

Wooster finally got to Putnam in the ninth and had the tying run in scoring position when a pop out ended the game, thanks in large part to sophomore Brian Murray (3-2), who kept Wooster within striking distance with a strong six-inning start. The right-hander struck out five and allowed three runs before giving way to sophomore Wyatt Linde and junior James Usher, who didn't allow a hit over their three innings of work.

In the bottom of the ninth, Wielansky and senior Jamie Lackner laced back-to-back one-out singles setting the stage for a RBI double by sophomore Garrett Crum that made it 3-1. However, Wooster didn't muster another hit the rest of the way.

Pat Birrer had a hand in all three runs for Otterbein as the right fielder mashed a two-run home run in the third inning to put the Cardinals on the board, and he accounted for the third run after coming around to score in the sixth inning following a leadoff base-knock.      

Wooster nearly rallied back from a 5-0 deficit in the second game as four of the Scots' six runs came in the bottom of the fifth inning. First-year Nick Strausbaugh drew a one-out walk, and junior Jake Fling punched a single to straight away center field in advance of Wielansky's three-run round-tripper. Then, Lackner plugged the right-center gap with a single, and he came in on a RBI sacrifice fly by junior Drew Tornow that made it 5-4.

However, the one-run deficit didn't last long as Otterbein answered right back with a four-run sixth inning with a three-run home run by Shephan Hernon breaking the game back open. The Cardinals added a third four-spot for the game in the top of the eighth inning that made it 13-4.

Wooster caught a break in the eight inning when Birrer booted a ball in right field and that allowed sophomore Harrison Walls, who led off the inning with a two-bagger, to dart home on a single by first-year Dan Gail.

Then, in the ninth, Wooster again capitalized on an error as the Cardinals threw away a pick-off attempt on Wielansky at first base, and that advanced him into scoring position prior to a RBI base-knock by Lackner.

Senior Jake Kail (0-1) toed the rubber in his first pitching appearance of the season and cruised through the first two innings before running into trouble in the third. The left-hander was aided by a 6-4-3 double play that ended the second inning.

Offensively, Lackner and Wielansky combined to go 4-for-9 with four RBI and three runs in the nightcap. On the flip side, Birrer went 3-for-2 after entering as a pinch hitter during the fourth inning, while Bryan Stopar had two base knocks to pair with a trio of RBI.

Next, Wooster (14-2 North Coast Athletic Conference East Division) hosts Ohio Wesleyan University (14-23, 6-10 NCAC West Division) in the NCAC Crossover Series. First pitch for Saturday's twin bill is slated for noon, but fans are encourage to check the team's Twitter account @WoosterBaseball for any potential weather-related updates before heading out to Art Murray Field.