Outlook: The top-ranked College of Wooster baseball team (34-6, 16-2 North Coast Athletic Conference), in search of its league-leading 14th NCAC Tournament crown, open's play at this week's league championship against Kenyon College (16-16, 10-8 NCAC) at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 10 at V.A. Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio. No. 24 Denison University (31-8, 15-3 NCAC) takes on Wabash College (25-15, 10-8 NCAC) at 8:30 p.m. in the other opening-day game. On Friday, the winners of Thursday's games kick off the three-game slate at noon ahead of the first elimination game that's set for a 4 p.m. start. The winner of Friday's noon game advances to the championship round, while the non-advancing team plays the winner of the 4 p.m. game in an elimination game at 7 p.m. on Friday. The championship round is slated to begin at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Sunday is a rain date if needed, but should Wabash still be in the tournament, it must be completed on Saturday due to Wabash's commencement taking place on Sunday. NCAC policies prohibit teams from playing on commencement.
Ticket Info: The prices for admission to the 2018 NCAC Baseball Tournament are $7 for adults and $3 for students and children. Each ticket is good for one day of admission at the tournament.
On the Air: All of the NCAC Tournament games will have live stats and live video. Wabash will carry the live stream of all games at https://livestream.com/wabashcollegelive/2018NCACBaseballTournament, and live stats can be found at https://sidearmstats.com/wabash/baseball. All four participating teams will share the webcast and official scoring responsibilities. Fans can also follow the team's Twitter account - @WoosterBaseball - for periodic updates.
The Man, The Myth, The Legend: Wooster is home to the active leader in NCAA Div. III coaching wins - the one and only Tim Pettorini, who owns a 1,207-442-6 record (.731) in 37 seasons, all with the Scots. Pettorini's guided the team to 24 NCAA regional appearances and a league-best 18 NCAC championships. His squads have won the Mideast regional and advanced to the eight-team finals on five occasions (1989, 1994, 1997, 2005, 2009). There, Wooster has a pair of national runner-up finishes (1997, 2009) and a third-place performance (2005) to its credit. Pettorini, who became the seventh Div. III coach to reach 1,000 wins on May 4, 2012, is a 13-time NCAC Coach-of-the-Year. This season, the legendary skipper moved up to fifth-place on the all-time Div. III coaching list during Wooster's 15-4 win over Allegheny College on April 21, and his 1,200th win came shortly after, courtesy of a 5-1 triumph over La Roche College on April 26.
NCAC Tournament Success: Wooster's won a league-best 13 NCAC Tournaments, and a conference-best 18 titles, as prior to 1991, the NCAC champion was determined by the highest regular-season winning percentage. That was the case again this year with the return to round-robin play. Wooster officially clinched at least a share of the league crown with its 7-5 win at Wittenberg University on May 2, and won the title outright with a 17-1 win over Kenyon last week Saturday. Ohio Wesleyan University has won eight conference tournaments, while Allegheny (3), DePauw University (1), and Oberlin College (1) have also won the league tournament over the years.
A Look-Back at the 2017 NCAC Tournament: Wooster steamrolled through the 2017 NCAC Tournament, as the Scots slashed .466/.514/.767 while outscoring the opposition 53-11 over three games. Junior Jacob Stuursma (Hudson, Ohio/Hudson) erupted for a 10-for-12 three-day stretch that saw the Scots' second baseman slash .833/.846/1.500. Stuursma scored nine times, logged nine RBI, and clubbed a pair of round trippers. Tournament MVP Jake Fling (Norton, Ohio/Norton) became the fifth player in program history to record a six-hit game, and the then-junior hit two home runs during a seven-RBI day to help lead then-ninth-ranked Wooster to a 25-6 win over DePauw in the championship game.
Numero Uno: Wooster rose to pole position in the D3baseball.com/National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Top-25 Poll on April 30, and the top billing marked the program's first No. 1 ranking since the 2008 Collegiate Baseball Preseason Poll. Wooster received 12 first-place votes, and had 602 points overall in the poll. The Scots have now been ranked No. 1 in five different seasons in the 2000s, starting in 2002 when Wooster earned top billing for four consecutive weeks. During the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Wooster was either No. 1 or No. 2 in the Div. III coaches' poll each week during the regular season. This week, Wooster is second in both the D3baseball.com/NCBWA Top-25 and the American Baseball Coaches Association/Collegiate Baseball Top-30 Polls.
Paging Mr. Exclusive: Junior Michael Wielansky (St. Louis, Mo./Ladue Horton Watkins) enters this week with 215 career hits, 194 career runs, and 150 career RBI. Should he reach 200 runs before the end of this season, he'll join Southwestern University's (Texas) Matt Gelotti as the only known Div. III players to have 200 hits, 200 runs, and 150 RBI before the end of their junior season. Gelotti, a 2000 graduate, had 234 hits, 203 runs, and 208 RBI at the end of the 1999 season.
60-60-60 Man: Wielansky, Wooster's shortstop, continues to find new ways to rewrite the storied program's history. Against Wittenberg, Wielansky's seventh-inning solo blast gave him 60 runs on the year, and he's the first student-athlete in program history to have three consecutive 60-run seasons. In fact, only W Association Hall of Famer Trevor Urban scored 60 - or more - runs in back-to-back seasons, and he scored 79 runs during Wooster's 1997 run to the Div. III National Championship game, and followed that up with 74 runs in 1998. Wielansky scored 61 times as a first-year, led Div. III in runs with 69 as a sophomore, and is second in the country with 64 runs entering the week.
Breaking Barriers: Wooster's storied program has a laundry list of all-time great hitters, but prior to 2017, they all had one thing in common - none of them surpassed 200 career hits until their senior seasons. That changed last year when Fling logged his 200th career base knock against Earlham College in the opening game at the Mideast Regional. Wielansky's 200th career hit came via an infield single against La Roche back on April 26.
Jockeying Back-and-Forth: The first Saturday of May has come and gone, and with it, the annual running of the Kentucky Derby. It's only fitting that the Scots have a pair of hitters - junior Garrett Crum (Alliance, Ohio/Canton South) and sophomore Dan Harwood (Brecksville, Ohio/Brecksville-Broadview Heights) jockeying back-and-forth for the team lead in RBI. Harwood holds a slim 62-61 lead over Crum entering the tournament. The sophomore's RBI single in Saturday's second game against Kenyon marked the slugger's 60th RBI of the season, and with Crum having reached 60 in game one of the twin bill, Wooster now has two student-athletes with 60-plus RBI in the same season for the first time since 2005 and fifth time overall. Harwood's 62 RBI are two behind North Central College's (Ill.) Mike Wisz for the national lead, while Crum is fourth nationally.
Runs in Bunches: Wooster's 450 runs this season are 78 shy of the single-season program record of 528 set in 1997 (55-game season). Wooster's tops in the country in runs per game (11.3), and the Scots also lead the country in average (.363), hits (564), doubles (125), all while ranking second in slugging percentage (.556) and home runs (48) entering the week. The Scots have scored 20 or more runs four times this year, including a co-program-best 34 against Ohio Wesleyan on April 8. Wooster's 34 runs marked the most since the Scots scored that many against Heidelberg University on April 11, 1986. Wooster also matched its single-game program record for hits (31), and established new records for at bats (59) and RBI (34) against the Battling Bishops.
Mr. NCAA: Fling enters this week as Div. III's active leader in at bats (730), hits (253) and runs (212). The four-year centerpiece in center field broke the NCAC and Wooster records for at bats during the Scots' sweep over the Gators, and that came one day after scoring his 200th career run at Muskingum University. Fling's runs' milestone also came in a game in which he matched the NCAC and Wooster records with six runs scored. He'll move into the top-20 all-time in Div. III history in runs the next time he touches home, and with three more runs, Fling will move into a tie for 16th-place on the all-time Div. III list. Should he score three more times this season, Wooster will have six greats in the top-16 all-time.
Aces Up His Sleeve: Senior Nanak Saran (Hudson, Ohio/Hudson) racked up his 200th career strikeout last Saturday against Kenyon, and in doing so, became the 13th player in program history to reach the milestone. Saran's the first Scot with 200 career strikeouts since 2011 when Matt Barnes wrapped up his standout career with a school-record 276, and Justin McDowell ended his career with 247. Saran also surpassed 250 career innings pitched in his last outing, the most since alumnus Steve Hagen threw 268 1/3 innings during his career which spanned the 2011-14 seasons. Saran is 7-2 this season with a 3.03 ERA spanning 59 1/3 innings.
Two-Through-Four are 16-1: Junior Brian Murray (McLean, Va./Bishop O'Connell), senior Alec Hammond (Canfield, Ohio/Canfield), and junior Chandler Dippman (Waterville, Ohio/St. John's Jesuit) have spent the season as the Scots' primary two-through-four starters and are a combined 16-1 on the year. In fact, Dippman leads the team with a 2.08 ERA, headlined by a complete-game effort over La Roche back on April 26, a game in which he only allowed one run. Murray sports a 2.98 ERA and he fired six shutout innings against Denison on the team's spring break trip, and allowed one run on two hits in eight innings of work against Wabash back on April 14.
Old Reliable: Senior James Usher (New York, N.Y./Trinity School) continues to be one of the top arms Pettorini turns to out of the bullpen. Usher is tied for the team lead with 23 appearances, and he's now at 71 career relief appearances, the second-most in program history. This season, Usher is 3-1 with a 4.61 ERA in 27 1/3 innings of work.
Linde Finding Home in Bullpen: Junior Wyatt Linde's (Boulder, Colo./Boulder) delivered a strong bounce-back year after missing most of last year with an injury. Linde, who split time between starter and reliever as a first-year, made 11 relief appearances in total last year while posting a fine 3.46 ERA. The left-hander's 23 appearances in 2018 is tied for tops on the team and ranks ninth nationally. In fact, Linde and Usher's 23 appearances are tied for the fifth-most in a single season in program history and are seven shy of the single-season program record set by alumnus Michael Whitaker in 2015.
First-Years Stepping Up: With 17 games over 17 days spanning April 18-May 5, chances were abound for student-athletes to step up, especially on the pitching side of things. Rookies Andrew Hill (New Albany, Ohio/Fork Union Military Academy (Va.)) and Jack Jones (Marietta, Ga./Walker School) are among those who have seen an uptick in workload over the last few weeks, and both have really rose to the occasion. Jones is 1-0 with a save since April 18, and his nine appearances are tied for second-most on the team. Jones has allowed one earned run over 10 2/3 innings during the last 17 games. Hill, meanwhile, has contributed in a variety of roles having made six appearances, including two starts. Hill is 1-0 with a 3.78 ERA over 16 2/3 innings since April 18, and he has two saves in that span.
Slick Fielding: Wooster's finished in the top three nationally in fielding percentage in each of the last two years, and the Scots are presently in position to do so again. The Scots checked in this week third in Div. III with a .978 fielding percentage and Wooster's made 34 defensive miscues in its 40 games thus far.