CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – The 2014 North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament championship game came down to a dramatic finish as The College of Wooster loaded the bases during the bottom of the ninth inning, but DePauw University's Michael Chiaro induced a game-ending grounder to third to give the Tigers a 4-2 win Saturday at VA Memorial Stadium. DePauw had forced a decisive game after defeating Wooster 8-5 in the "first" championship game earlier in the day.
DePauw (23-19) receives the league's automatic berth into the NCAA Div. III Baseball Championship, which starts play next Wednesday.
In the championship game, Wooster (29-15) was held hitless for six innings by freshman southpaw Riley Futterknecht, who had also started the opening game of the tourney, while the Tigers generated one run in the third, two in the fourth, and one in the top of the seventh for a 4-0 lead. Then, the Tigers went to their bullpen and the Fighting Scots' comeback bid began.
Jarrod Mancine greeted the first relief pitcher with a double into the right-center gap to start the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, Zac Mathie sent a sharp single up the middle to plate Mancine and Billy Farrow drove a double to the left-field wall to score Mathie and make it a two-run game.
After a scoreless eighth inning and top of the ninth, Wooster nearly rallied in its final at bat. Bryan Miller and Mancine drew back-to-back walks to open the frame, which led to DePauw bringing in Chiaro. John McLain laid down a sacrifice bunt, putting the tying run on second with one out.
Next, Chiaro struck out the Scots' No. 3 hitter on three pitches and walked Mathie. Farrow, who came up with a number of big hits during the NCAC Tournament over his four years, swung at Chiaro's initial offering, grounding the ball to third baseman JB McCallum, who smothered it and stepped on the bag for the Tigers' first NCAC championship.
In the opener, DePauw overcame a pair of weather delays – a brief 16-minute rain break during the top of the fourth and a 51-minute stoppage for lightning and rain in the bottom of the seventh inning – for the 8-5 victory.
A big moment came right after the second delay, as Wooster was trailing 6-3 but had the bases loaded and one out with clean-up hitter Brendan Taylor at the plate facing a 2-2 count. Taylor hit a high bouncer to the right side for a fielder's choice play at second base that scored one run and then Frank Vance followed with an infield single to bring in another run, pulling the Scots within 6-5.
The Tigers answered right back in the top of the eighth, though. Ryan Grippo started the frame by doubling down the left-field line, Ryan Allee singled him in, and later, Zach Starr added an RBI double to extend the lead to three.
DePauw, which had opened up a 3-0 lead on a first inning Robbie Stein two-run homer and a Brendon Pashia solo shot right before the first rain delay in the fourth, closed out Wooster 1-2-3 in both the eighth and ninth to force the decisive game.