Heidelberg pitches its way to finals

PHOTO COURTESY OF CRAIG HICKS Heidelberg’s Zach Doran (4) is congratulated by Kane Bateman after scoring in the fifth inning of Saturday’s regional game against Denison in Adrian, Michigan.

ADRIAN, Mich. –For all the attention Heidelberg’s offense received during the regular season, it’s been the team’s pitching that has shined in the Division III regionals at Adrian.

On Friday, starter Alex Sir Louis threw seven strong innings, then turned the game against Adrian over to the bullpen to secure a 4-3 win.

On Saturday, HU coach Chad Fitzgerald followed the same formula.

This time, it was starter Trevor Adkins who delivered. He threw seven brilliant innings, working into the eighth and allowing a single run on seven hits against Denison.

He left with a 2-1 lead, then turned things over to his relievers. Brady Knizner threw a scoreless inning, and then the ball went to closer Joey Wenning, who made quick work of the Big Red in the ninth to record his 10th save of the season, and his second in as many days.

The 2-1 victory advanced Heidelberg into today’s finals, against either Adrian or Denison. The two played Saturday evening, with the winner facing HU in the finals today at noon.

Whomever faces Heidelberg will have to defeat it in two straight games today. Heidelberg only has to win once to make next week’s super regionals.

Heidelberg’s first run came in the opening inning. Leadoff batter Kane Bateman ripped a doubled down the left field line. Denison pitcher Taylor Perrett struck out Kyle Jenkins, but not before a wild pitch pushed Bateman to third.

Matt Psychas also struck out, but another wild pitch brought home Bateman from third.

It stayed 1-0 until the fifth, when HU’s Zach Doran doubled with one out, moved to third on a wild pitch, then came home on a sacrifice fly by Robert Hunt.

In the eighth, the HU bullpen had to do some work to maintain a lead.

Adkins walked leadoff batter Max Lahn, then was relieved by Knizner. Knizner walked Grady Paine to put runners on first and second, then the runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch.

Knizner responded by striking out Ty Robinson, but Will Krushena grounded to short, scoring Lahn and moving Paine to third.

But Knizner escaped the scare by getting Brian McAuliffe to fly to right.

It was Denison’s last threat.

Heidelberg improved to 32-13.

Bateman and Eric Devore each had two hits in the win for HU.

Dragons remarkable run ends in regional finals

KENT –The incredible run Tiffin University’s baseball team has been on over the last two weeks reached its end in the Division II regional finals Saturday.

The No. 8 seed of the tournament coming in, Tiffin needed to beat Ashland once out of two games to secure a regional title.

Standing in its way was Ashland, a team Tiffin had beaten Thursday in the regional opener.

Tiffin jumped out to a 5-1 lead after three innings in the first game, but the Eagles — who came in as the top seed and with 44 wins, rallied and won, 7-6.

In the second game, Ashland won in a romp, 15-5.

The Dragons ended their season at 26-31.

“This last three weeks of the season has been stuff that people make movies about,” said Dragons coach Joe Wilkins. “It took heart, determination, and the will to never give up, to compete to the last out. It was something that’ll live on for teams to come, and for the future.”

On March 17, the Dragons were swept in a G-MAC doubleheader by Ohio Dominican.

Tiffin’s record fell to 2-17.

But TU fought back, finishing the regular season 17-12, and qualified for the conference tournament.

There, it won four straight to claim the tournament title, and gain an automatic bid to the Division II regionals.

Those were both firsts for the program.

And, after two wins in the regional, TU looked poised for more history.

But the Eagles put a stop to it.

Tiffin’s starting pitcher in the first game was Jake Monnin. He went five innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on four hits, striking out two.

But Ashland scored four runs in the sixth off relievers Gunnar Boehm and Michael Ross, taking a 6-5 edge before Tiffin tied it with a run in the bottom of the sixth.

But Ashland took the lead for good with a run in the eighth.

Garett Robberts homered and drove in three runs for the Eagles in Game 1, and Chris Slavik picked up the win in relief.

Brayden Callihan drove in a pair of runs for the Dragons, while Zach Campbell, John Heckman and Jack Dennis had two hits each.

In the second game, Ashland scored 12 runs over the first two innings taking control of the game and never letting go.

Wilkins said the team was really short on arms by the end of the season, with five pitchers being out.

“Just doing what we did without those five guys was just amazing,” he said. The guys that we did have played their butts off and played their best, and gave us a chance to have a nice little thrill ride right there.”

Still, the second game was tough.

“When you get beat the first one, and you know where you’re at, you’ve just got to piece it together and try to out-hit them in Game 2. “The guys that were in there hadn’t been in there a lot this year. But anyone of those guys is capable of having a great game himself.”

Tiffin used five pitchers. Starter Hunter Carson took the loss. Columbian graduate Christian Magill closed things out for TU, going 1 1/3 innings and not allowing a run or a hit.

TU has three seniors off the 2018-19 team: Right fielder John Heckman, first baseman Jack Dennis and left fielder Brayden Callihan.

Wilkins praised their leadership, but said so many played a part in the run.

“They did enough to bring guys together, and then other guys took their own leadership roles,” he said. “It wasn’t just the seniors, but it started with them.

Wilkins listed relievers Aaron George and Michael Ross, outfielder/pitcher Cody Orr, shortstop Zach Campbell, catcher Nich Green, DH Aaron Gonzalez, freshman catcher Noah Penney, second baseman Kole Klasic, starting pitcher (and Lakota High graduate) Tyler Wehrle as players who played big roles.

“Numerous names, I could go on and on,” Wilkins said. “Kind of an amazing run there. A lot of guys had a part of not only the success, but the leadership, and what makes a great future as well.”