Multitude of Scots Step Up with Big Plays at Key Moments to Help Seventh-Ranked Wooster Post 5-1 Record Over Second Half of Florida Trip

Dan Hardwood
Dan Harwood
Harry Witwer-Dukes
Harry Witwer-Dukes

The College of Wooster baseball team, ranked seventh in this week's Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Top-25 Poll, set the tone for a 5-1 week in Florida by scoring a season-high 18 runs during Sunday's 18-1 non-conference win over North Coast Athletic Conference rival Denison University, and the Fighting Scots' pitching stole the headlines later in the week during a trio of two-run wins.

Wooster (9-3) wasted no time it the week's opener as the Scots jumped on Denison (9-5) starter Taylor Perrett in the first inning when junior Garrett Crum and senior Drew Tornow logged RBI base knocks during a three-run frame.

Wooster, which scored in six of its nine trips to the plate on Sunday, tacked on a run in the second inning, thanks to a leadoff three-bagger by junior Tanner Kaplan, who later touched home when sophomore Nick Strausbaugh lifted a sacrifice fly out to left field.

Two innings later, back-to-back doubles by Strausbaugh and junior Michael Wielansky upped the lead to 6-0, and sophomore Dan Harwood pounded a single through the right side of the infield to make it a 7-0 affair.

The Scots broke the game wide open in the sixth with three more runs, two of which came in on a two-run double off the bat of Crum. Later, Wooster erupted for a seven-spot in the ninth inning with the loudest hit coming in the form of a leadoff pinch-hit triple by first-year Noah Clement. Sophomore Harry Witwer-Dukes, sophomore Tyler Iversen, and junior Harrison Walls all logged RBI base knocks as the inning progressed.

Junior Brian Murray fired six innings of shutout baseball to pick up his first win of the year. The right-hander scattered six hits while striking out three Big Red hitters.

On Tuesday, Wooster carried an 11-8 lead into the ninth inning, but the Scots couldn't close out 23rd-ranked North Central College (Ill.) as the Cardinals (4-6) rallied for an eight-spot in their final at bat to upend the Black and Gold 16-11.

Wooster overcame an early 3-0 deficit and cut North Central's lead to two in the third inning when Harwood blasted the first of two homers out to right field to make it a 3-1 game.

In the third, Harwood tied the game at three with his team-leading fifth round tripper of the season. Prior to Harwood's homer, Wielansky legged out a single to start the Scots' best offensive frame of the day. Crum smashed a single through the left side following Harwood's mammoth blast, and Tornow kept the rally going with his 11th career three-bagger. Witwer-Dukes, who made his first start of the year, poked a single out to right field to push Wooster's lead to 6-3.

North Central tied the high-scoring affair up in the top of the fourth, but Wooster retook the lead in the sixth inning on Witwer-Dukes' RBI two-bagger.

During its last ups, North Central scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball, and 2017 consensus first-team All-American Michael Mateja capped the comeback with a grand slam.

On Wednesday, Wooster turned three double plays in support of senior starter Alec Hammond, and the Fighting Scots' offense utilized a pair of big innings to split the season series with North Central. Wooster took Wednesday's game 8-6.

Wooster jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third. Kaplan laced a one-out single up the middle to knock in junior Chandler Dippman, who reached one batter prior with an opposite-field two-bagger. Later in the inning, Harwood knocked a two-out, two-run single to left field.

North Central pulled within one in the sixth inning at 3-2, but Wooster responded with a four-run seventh. Dippman started the rally with a one-out flair to left field and came in to score on a single by senior Jake Fling. Two batters later, Wielansky ripped a two-run double to left field, and the Scots' shortstop sped home on Harwood's RBI single that made it 7-2.

Hammond improved to 2-0 on the year. The senior lefty allowed four runs on nine hits in 6 1/3 innings. The defense behind Hammond erased one-out base runners with inning-ending twin killers in the first and third innings, and the Scots twisted a 6-4-3 double play that erased a leadoff single in the fifth.

On Friday, senior Nanak Saran and Murray combined to allow two runs in 12 innings of work, while senior James Usher nailed down the save in both ends of the Scots' doubleheader. Wooster topped Johns Hopkins University 3-1 and Plymouth State University 7-5.

Saran was nearly unhittable in Friday's opener as Johns Hopkins' (10-8) Mike Smith's two-out double in the top of the first inning was the lone hit surrendered by Wooster's ace in his six innings of work. The righty went on to fan eight Blue Jays before turning the game ball over to a quartet of relievers.

Junior Jacob Stuursma started Wooster's offensive rally by blasting a first-pitch double to the fence in left field to lead off the fourth inning. Wielansky's patience at the plate led to a four-pitch walk. Harwood and Crum then roasted Johns Hopkins' starter Alex Ross with a pair of two-baggers that brought in the Scots' three runs of the game.

In the nightcap, Murray turned in his third strong start of the year to the tune of two runs on three hits in six innings to improve to 2-0 on the year. Usher, who worked an inning against Johns Hopkins, returned with two Plymouth State (6-5) runners on base in the seventh, stranded both, and closed out the game with a seven-out save.

Wooster's execution was on point in the first inning as the Scots claimed an early 2-0 lead. Stuursma and Wielansky recorded back-to-back base knocks, with the latter of the two hits going for a double. Then, Harwood plated the game's first run on a sacrifice fly, and Crum came through in the clutch with a two-out RBI single to left field.

Wooster's success slugging doubles carried over to the nightcap as the Scots logged a trio of two-baggers in the third inning to open up a 5-0 lead. Stuursma legged out the first double of the inning, and the Scots' second baseman touched home on Harwood's double to center field. Two batters later, Tornow plated a pair with his co-team-leading fifth double of the season.

In the Florida finale, Dippman allowed one run on six hits while logging a career-best eight innings of work, and Wooster's offensive provided timely hitting in a 6-2 win over Saint Lawrence University on Saturday morning.

Wooster tied the game at one in the fifth inning thanks to Flings' hustle. The Scots' leadoff man laced a one-out single to left field and stole second and third base, with the swipe of second marking the standout's 50th career steal. Wielansky then lofted a sacrifice fly deep enough to get the speedster in from third.

In the sixth, sophomore Dan Gail led the charge during a two-run rally by singling to right field to start the frame. After the bases were loaded, Fling was hit by a pitch, which forced in the go-ahead run, and Stuursma followed suit with a RBI fielder's choice to make it a two-run game.

The Scots put the game out of reach with a two-run ninth inning that featured Crum's first round tripper of the year.

Harwood led the way offensively with a .565 average (13-for-23) over the last six games. The sophomore drove in 11 runs, and six of his 13 hits went for extra bases.

Crum, Fling, Tornow, and Witwer-Dukes all hit above .300 for the week, and the quartet had at least eight hits each. Fling's nine runs were a team high.

Noteworthy Fling (versus Denison) and Tornow (versus Johns Hopkins) logged their 12th career triples, and are now tied with Wielansky for the team lead. W Association Hall of Famer Jake Frank holds the College's career triples record at 13.

Next, Wooster opens up NCAC play against DePauw University (1-7) with first pitch from Art Murray Field set for noon on Saturday, March 31. The NCAC is playing a full round robin this year, and the league opener features a rematch of the two teams in the 2017 and 2018 NCAC Tournament championship round, a tournament won by Wooster both years.