Top-Ranked Wooster Sweeps Wittenberg, Claims League-Leading 18th NCAC Title

Dan Gail
Dan Gail
Dan Hardwood
Dan Harwood

Sophomore Dan Harwood's go-ahead grand slam on a 0-2 pitch in the top of the ninth inning woke up the top-ranked College of Wooster baseball team, which went on to sweep aside Wittenberg University 17-12 and 7-5 on Wednesday evening at Carleton Davidson Stadium in Springfield, Ohio. With the wins, Wooster guaranteed itself at least a share of the 2018 North Coast Athletic Conference championship, and the league title is the Fighting Scots' conference-best 18th, and third straight.

Wooster (33-5, 15-1 NCAC), which trailed 12-10 heading into the ninth inning, wouldn't go quietly, as junior Jacob Stuursma walked, and that at bat was followed up with back-to-back singles by sophomore Harry Witwer-Dukes and junior Michael Wielansky. After Harwood's 11th round tripper of the year pushed Wooster on top 14-12, junior Garrett Crum drilled an opposite-field single, and came in to score on a two-run shot by senior Drew Tornow. In all, the Scots sent 13 men to the plate in the inning, and eventually tacked on a seventh run when Wielansky worked his way out of a 0-2 hole to draw a bases-loaded free pass.

Earlier in the game, the Scots jumped out to a 2-0 lead. Wooster scored the game's first run on a Wittenberg (13-23, 7-9 NCAC) error in the first inning, and sophomore Dan Gail ripped his first collegiate home run in the top of the second inning.

Wittenberg briefly led 5-2 after four innings, but Wooster stormed back with a five-run fifth inning to take a 7-5 lead. Wielansky started the hit parade rolling with a solo home run, and he later added a second solo shot in the seventh inning. Notable, Wielansky's seventh-inning round tripper gave the junior 60 runs on the year, and he's now touched home at least 60 times in all three seasons in a Scots' uniform.

Shifting gears back to the fifth inning, Harwood followed up Wielansky's dinger with a two-bagger, and he touched home two batters later on Gail's base knock. Later in the inning, junior Chandler Dippman pushed Wooster back on top with a two-run single that made it 6-5, and Stuursma logged a sacrifice fly to cap the inning.

Wooster, which led 10-7 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, saw its lead evaporate, as Wittenberg took the lead at 11-10 on a two-run single off the bat of Ryan Probst. A RBI fielder's choice by Jack Holinshead extended the lead to two in the eighth inning.

Gail paced Wooster's offense in game one with a 4-for-6 showing with four runs scored and two RBI. The Scots' catcher had plenty of traffic in front of him on the bases, as Wooster's three-through-five hitters – Wielansky, Harwood, and Crum – combined to go 9-for-15 with seven runs and seven RBI.

Defensively, the Scots twisted a pair of double plays, including an inning-ending 4-6-3 twin killer in the fifth inning.

First-year Jack Jones picked up his first collegiate win in the series opener. The right-hander allowed one run on three hits in two innings.

Probst and Hollinshead gave the Scots fits all game long, as the duo combined to go 6-for-10 with eight RBI.  Tanner Griggs took the loss and fell to 1-4 on the year. The rookie allowed four runs in an inning of relief.

Wooster's long ball theme continued in the nightcap, as Crum went deep to give the Scots a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Crum's spark ballooned into a five-run frame when all was said and done. Sophomore Aaron Spidell and Dippman extended the inning with back-to-back two-out walks, and Stuursma's single extended the game to 2-0. Gail continued to drive the ball, and his two-bagger made it 4-0, before he eventually scored on a Wielansky RBI base knock.

Gail's bat was at the center of attention in the fourth inning, as the designated hitter's RBI single plated Dippman, who reached with a single earlier in the frame. That made it a 6-1 ball game.

Wittenberg inched closer over the middle third of the game, and pulled within one at 6-5 after a two-run seventh inning. Probst continued to find green spaces in the field with his single pulling the Tigers within one.

First-year Andrew Hill entered in relief following Probst's at bat, and he was able to strand the tying run at third. The lanky right-hander worked out of trouble again in the eighth inning thanks to inducing an inning-ending fielder's choice to Wielansky with runners on first and second base.

Hill walked the tight rope in the ninth inning after a one-out double to Tim Bates, but Wooster's rookie was up to the task once again with a soft pop out to Stuursma, and a ground out to the Scots' slick-fielding second baseman closing the door on the Tigers. The save marked Hill's second of his collegiate career.

While Hill was on the bump, Wooster's offense grinded out an insurance run in the eighth inning. Dippman led off the frame with a two-bagger, advanced to third on Stuursma's sacrifice bunt, and scored on a wild pitch.

Gail finished the nightcap 2-for-4 with three RBI, while Dippman went 2-for-4 with three runs scored.

Senior James Usher (3-1) picked up the win with a scoreless inning of relief. Noteworthy, Usher's outing marked his 70th career relief appearance, and he moved past former Wooster great, and current men's golf head coach, Rich Danch for the second-most in program history.

Probst had a two-hit showing in game two to up his total to five for the twin bill.

While Wooster and Wittenberg have long been considered archrivals, the two ball clubs haven't met on the diamond since 2011, in part due to the conference's divisional structure leading up to switching to a round-robin format this year. Wooster now leads the all-time series 53-34.

Next, Wooster hosts Kenyon College (15-15, 9-7 NCAC) on Saturday at noon. Prior to game one, Wooster will honor its six-member senior class.