MOOSIC, Pa. -- The Baldwin Wallace University baseball team won its school-record 29th game of the season and defeated Wesleyan (Conn.) University, 9-7, in the 2014 NCAA Division III Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship Game at PNC Field and qualified for its first-ever Division III World Series in Appleton, Wisconsin from May 23-27.
The Yellow Jackets (29-18) utilized three "quality starts" from its pitching staff and timely hitting to go 4-0 and undefeated in regional play as it beat host and fifth-seed Misericordia (Pa.) University, 8-4, eighth-seed Haverford (Pa.) College, 10-2 and third-seed Susquehanna, 4-1, en route to today's regional title game. With its loss, seventh-seed Wesleyan ends its season at 31-13 overall.
"This was a total team effort," said BW fourth-year Head Coach Brian Harrison, who won his 100thgame as a Yellow Jacket (100-61 overall). "We got solid starting pitching, including three quality starts, our bullpen was effective and we got good timely hitting and played mostly solid defense.
"This is great for our student-athletes, and especially the seniors, good for Baldwin Wallace University and definitely good for our baseball program," said Harrison. "We look forward to the challenge in Appleton. We faced stiff competition all year (BW had the 13th toughest schedule in Division III), had a good record (14-9) versus teams (10) who made it to the Division III national tournament and we play in the or one of the toughest leagues in Division III in the Ohio Athletic Conference."
BW's record-setting win extended its single-season school-record for victories. The Jackets set the mark of 27 in both 2012 and 2013.
"Records are nice," said Harrison, but that's something that we have to put in the back our minds right now. "Our focus has to be on the next game with the ultimate goal of winning the Division III national title."
The Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 1-0 lead with a run in the bottom of the first inning when senior All-OAC and Academic All-OAC third baseman Brad Gugliotta (Twinsburg) led off with a walk, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, moved to third on an infield single by junior All-OAC first baseman Kyle Chontos (Pickerington/ North) and scored on a ground out.
In the top of the second, Wesleyan scored six runs on three hits, three walks and an error to take a 6-1 lead. The Yellow Jackets stung back for a run in the bottom of the fourth to close the deficit to 6-2 when senior catcher Joe Hiller (Twinsburg) scored on a single by sophomore left fielder Jerry Scholle (Hinckley/ Medina Highland) and after the Wesleyan center fielder misplayed the hit.
In the bottom of the sixth, BW scored four times to tie it at 6-6. Scholle led off with a single and then stole second base. After two outs, Gugliotta had an infield single and when the shortstop's throw short-hopped the first baseman, Scholle headed for home. The first baseman picked up the loose ball and threw home, but his throw hit the catcher's mask and Scholle scored to make it 6-3, and Gugliotta advanced to second. Sophomore All-OAC second baseman Mark Zimmerman (Akron/ Green) followed with a triple to right center field to score Gugliotta to cut the deficit to 6-4. Chontos followed with a single to score Zimmerman to make it 6-5. Sophomore All-OAC designated hitter Hunter Handel (Akron/ Green) ended the scoring when he doubled home Chontos to tie the game.
Undaunted, Wesleyan came right back in the top of the seventh to take a 7-6 lead with an infield hit, a sacrifice bunt and a two-out single.
BW came back in the bottom of the seventh to take a 9-7 lead as junior shortstop Eric Murphy (Brook Park/ Middleburg Heights) singled to lead off the frame and moved to second on a passed ball. After two outs, Murphy scored the tying run on a single by junior All-OAC right fielder Alex Green (Pickerington/ North). After Green moved to second on the throw home, he scored the go-ahead run when Gugliotta reached base via a throwing error and advanced all the way to third. He then scored on a wild pitch to give BW a 9-7 lead.
At the plate, BW outhit Wesleyan, 13-8. The Jackets were led by Zimmerman, Chontos, Murphy, Scholle, Gugliotta and Handel. Zimmerman was 3-for-4 with a run scored, triple, stolen base and run batted-in (RBI). Chontos was 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI. Murphy was 2-for-4 with a run scored. Scholle was 2-for-4 with a run scored. Gugliotta was 1-for-4 with three runs scored. In addition, Handel was 2-for-3 with two RBI.
On the mound, junior right-hander Cory Waite (Willoughby/ South) started and pitched the first one and one-third innings and allowed four base hits, six runs (five earned) and issued three bases on balls (walks). He left with a 6-1 deficit. Senior left-hander Cory Durbin (Canton/ GlenOak) followed Waite to the mound and pitched a strong, five and two-third innings, allowed two hits, one run (earned) and walked one batter. He left with a 9-7 lead and improved his record to 1-1 this season. Sophomore "stopper" Brandon Cichocki (Walled Lake, Mich./ Central) came in the eighth and pitched the final two innings to earn his school-record eighth save of the season. He allowed three base hits and no runs.
BW's Zimmerman was named as the Most Valuable Player in the Mid-Atlantic Regional and he was joined on the all-tournament team by Chontos, Gugliotta and freshman right-handed pitcher Logan Heffernan (Lebanon).
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