No. 4 Wooster Drops Appleton Opener Against No. 6 Texas Lutheran, Plays Swarthmore in Saturday's Elimination Game

APPLETON, Wis. – The fourth-ranked College of Wooster baseball team will have to claw its way back through the elimination bracket, as the Fighting Scots' return to the Div. III Championships didn't get off to the start the Black & Gold were hoping for with sixth-ranked Texas Lutheran University taking a 7-0 ball game on Friday evening at Fox Cities Stadium.

"It's obviously not the way you want to start a tournament, but give their guy credit," said head coach Tim Pettorini. "He pitched a great game. He was spot on and came as advertised. We knew he would be very good, and he was. We didn't get the job done. It's a double elimination tournament for a reason, and the Fighting Scots will show up tomorrow ready to play."

Wooster (40-9), making its sixth appearance at the Div. III Championships, and first since 2009, was dealt a three-run hole in the first inning. Wooster junior Chandler Dippman induced a quick ground out against Div. III's leader in hits, Riley Schaefer, to start the game, but the Bulldogs quickly had the Scots' right-hander timed up. Back-to-back singles by Ben Marvin and Thomas Varner set the stage for Tyler Cauley, who drilled a three-run homer over the double-tiered billboards in left field.

Wooster junior Michael Wielansky looked to jump-start a two-out rally in the bottom of the first inning, and clubbed a two-bagger up the left-center alley, but a fly ball off the bat of sophomore Dan Harwood found its way into the waiting glove of Schaefer out in center field.

Texas Lutheran chalked out a run in the second inning. After the first two men reached via a walk and a single, Eric Rabinowitz sacrificed the runners over to second and third base, and Schaefer lifted a sacrifice fly out to right field to up the lead to 4-0.

In the third inning, a pair of two-baggers – first by Cauley, and then by Chad Curtis – upped the Bulldogs lead to 6-0. That's where the score stood until the eighth inning, but in between Wooster had to work its tail off to keep it at a six-run deficit.

In the fourth inning, junior Harrison Walls threw out a would-be base stealer and junior Garrett Crum made a nice pick on a screaming grounder to end the inning and strand a pair. An inning later, two more runners were stranded when senior Drew Tornow tracked down a fly ball to end the inning.

Sophomore Jeremy Parton breezed through his second inning of relief with a one-two-three sixth inning, and he hung a "K" backwards on Cauley's line for the game, and in fact, that was the lone time Wooster was able to retire the Bulldogs' top slugger on the night.

Two innings later, a three-hit inning by the Bulldogs made it a 7-0 game.

Jake Fling
Senior Jake Fling is congratulated by first-base coach Dan Wyand after his fourth inning single. Photo courtesy of Russell Kramer, NCAC.

Wooster's top chance offensively came in the fourth inning when senior Jake Fling led off the inning with a single and moved up to second base on a base knock by sophomore Dan Harwood.

Nathan Malinovsky handcuffed the nation's top offense all evening long. The junior right-hander fired a four-hit shutout while striking out nine.

Cauley went 3-for-4 with five RBI and two runs scored.

Noteworthy, Wooster held Schaefer, who entered the championships with a division-leading 86 hits to a 0-for-4 performance.

"Our approach was to give him a lot of different looks," said Pettorini. "We didn't want to throw him the same pitch back-to-back. He's a great hitter, and his numbers are outstanding to say the least."

Dippman suffered his first loss on the year. The right-hander allowed six runs on nine hits in four innings.

Wooster will look to stay alive and must win its next four games to advance to the best-of-three championship series. Up first is a date with Swarthmore College (37-10) on Saturday with first pitch set for approximately 5:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. CT.

"We've got some really good seniors who have been through the wars a lot in some tough situations," said Pettorini when highlighting getting the guys ready to go for Saturday. "Tomorrow's another great opportunity. We talked about it at length with our young guys before we came. It doesn't really matter. We've had an outstanding season. These guys have done a tremendous job, put up fantastic numbers, and really represented the school and our conference and everybody else in a first-class manner. This was going to be the icing on the cake. That's how we're going to approach it tomorrow. We're still in the middle of this thing. We have a lot of pitching depth. I know that. We're going to trot guys out there. If we can get the first one, hopefully we can get some momentum."