CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Sophomore Dan Harwood pushed the second-ranked College of Wooster baseball team on top of 24th-ranked Denison University 3-1 with a mammoth two-run fourth-inning home run, and junior Chandler Dippman took charge down the stretch with a complete-game effort, as the Fighting Scots warded off the Big Red 4-2 on Friday evening in an elimination game at the 2018 North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament at VA Memorial Stadium. Earlier in the day, Wabash College took the winners bracket game from Wooster 7-3.
Wooster (36-7) meets back up with Wabash (27-15) in the championship round, which is now set to begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday due to the potential for inclement weather later in the day. Wooster, in search its third straight tournament championship - which would mark the second-ever three-year run in history of the tourney - will need to win game one in order to force the winner-takes-all contest, which is slated to begin approximately 30 minutes after game one ends, should it be necessary.
Wooster and Denison (32-10), which split the regular-season conference contests, were neck-and-neck at the end of the first inning. Senior Jake Fling clubbed a one-out double and came in to score on a RBI fielder's choice by Harwood to tie the game at one. The run marked Fling's 213th of his standout career, and Wooster's centerfielder cracked the top-20 all-time in Div. III in the process.
The score stayed tied at one thanks to plenty of flashy defense on both sides, headlined by Wooster senior Drew Tornow tracking down a fly ball off the bat of Denison standout Tanner Johnson on the dead sprint on the right-field line to end the top of the second inning. Johnson stole the spotlight in the bottom of the third by making a diving grab on a Fling fly ball.
|Sophomore Dan Harwood gave the Scots the lead with a two-run homer against Denison in the second elimination game of the 2018 NCAC Tournament. Photo courtesy of Russell Kramer, NCAC.|
Junior Michael Wielansky, who was 3-for-3 in the game outside of his fourth-inning plate appearance, walked in advance of Harwood's two-run go-ahead round tripper that made it 3-1.
Denison pulled within one in the fifth inning when Grady Paine led off with a two-bagger. In fact, a single by Jack Blanchard had the Big Red in business with runners on the corners and nobody out, but junior Garrett Crum made a fine pick on a sharp grounder to first base and cut down Blanchard. Crum's pick initially force Paine to hold until the throw to retire Blanchard, but the Big Red's designated hitter was able to beat out Wielansky's throw home despite the late start down the line.
In the sixth inning, junior Harrison Walls nailed a two-out double to the wall in left center to score Crum, and make it 4-2.
Dippman took charge from there and induced a 6-4-3 double play after Paine reached to lead off the seventh inning, and the junior right-hander earned the right to stay in the game thanks to a plethora of first-pitch strikes down the stretch. Dippman closed out the Big Red with a one-two-three ninth inning while facing the top of the order for the fifth time.
Dippman, who recorded his third career complete game, scattered nine hits and struck out five en route to improving to 7-0 on the year.
Harwood and Wielansky accounted for five of Wooster's 11 hits, while Denison senior Joseph Maydwell went 3-for-4.
In Friday's opener, senior Cody Cochran stymied Wooster's high-powered offense for four innings before the Scots struck for a pair of runs in the fifth inning to halve what at the time was a 4-0 Little Giants' lead. Cochran's heads-up on defense kept the Scots at bay in the start of the fifth inning as the right-hander was able to cut down the lead runner at third base on a sacrifice bunt attempt.
After the dust settled from that big play, junior Jacob Stuursma sparked Wooster with a RBI double down the left field to make it a 4-1 game, and Dippman scored on obstruction by Wabash third baseman Henry Wannemuehler to make it 4-2.
Crum reached via a leadoff single through the left side to get the offense rolling in the sixth inning, and Tornow moved the Scots' first baseman up to third with an opposite-field two-bagger. Walls continued to factor into the offense with a sacrifice fly that made it 4-3.
That's where the score stood until Wabash plated a trio of insurance runs in the ninth inning. Jared Wolfe and Bryce Aldridge logged RBI base knocks, while the first run of the inning came in to score on an error.
Earlier in the game, Wabash jumped out to a 3-0 lead after an inning. Jackson Blevins came through in the clutch with a sacrifice fly and an RBI groundout, the latter of which made it a 4-0 game in the top of the third inning.
Cochran improved to 7-4 on the year with the win. The senior scattered four hits in six innings of work. Zach Moffet earned his eighth save of the season with three innings of one-hit relief.
Junior Brian Murray fell to 5-2 on the season. The Scots' right-hander allowed four runs on six hits in 5 2/3 innings of work.
Walls led the way offensively by going 1-for-2 with a run, RBI, and walk.
Blevins went 2-for-3 with two RBI.
Notable, Wooster is making its sixth straight appearance in the championship round.