PORT CHARLOTTE, Florida – Sophomore Neal Dowling (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph) had the game-winning walk-off single as the Baldwin Wallace University baseball team rallied in the bottom of the ninth inning for the second consecutive game to beat Wabash (Ind.) College, 11-10, in its fourth game on its annual spring break trip to Port Charlotte, Florida. The Yellow Jackets (4-0) play four more games during the next three days.
Wabash (3-3) opened the scoring with six runs in the top of the first inning to take the lead, 6-0, but Baldwin Wallace responded with four runs of their own in the bottom of the inning to cut the Little Giant lead to 6-4. Wabash scored one run in each of the second and fourth innings to increase its lead to 8-4. The Yellow Jacket offense scored two runs in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh to take its first lead of the game at 9-8. The advantage was short-lived as the Little Giants responded with two runs of their own in the top of the eighth inning to take a 10-9 lead. That set the stage for Dowling's heroics.
Down 6-0 in the inning, BW scored four runs. Junior two-time All-Ohio Athletic Conference second-baseman Mark Zimmerman (Akron/Green) singled through the left side to score senior All-OAC left fielder Zach Ferster (Olmsted Falls). Ferster opened the inning with a walk, advanced to second base via a catcher's interference and moved over to third on a fly ball to center field. Senior All-OAC shortstop Eric Murphy (Brook Park/Midpark) followed with a double to drive home sophomore third-baseman Cole Nieto (Brunswick/Cleveland St. Ignatius), who reached on the catcher's interference call, from third and Zimmerman from first. BW scored its fourth run when freshman designated hitter Corey Welsh (Brunswick) singled in Murphy.
After the Little Giants took an 8-4 lead, the Yellow Jackets were quick to respond.
In the fifth, Division III All-American senior first-baseman Kyle Chontos (Pickerington/North) made it 8-5 when he tripled to right-center field to bring home Ferster, who was hit by a pitch to lead-off the inning. Zimmerman hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field to bring home Chontos and cut the deficit to 8-6.
In the sixth, sophomore catcher Alex Marcum (Granville) singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch, moved over to third on a single by sophomore outfielder/pitcher Logan Heffernan (Lebanon) and scored when junior outfielder Jerry Scholle (Hinckley/Medina Highland) hit a sacrifice fly.
In the seventh, Chontos got on base with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved over to third on a passed ball. After both Zimmerman and Murphy walked to load the bases, Marcum singled to bring home Zimmerman and Chontos to give the Yellow Jackets a 9-8 advantage.
In the eighth, Wabash scored twice and retook a 10-9 lead.
In the ninth, Zimmerman led-off with a single to the shortstop. Murphy singled to right-center and advanced Zimmerman to third. After junior All-OAC pinch hitter Hunter Handel (Akron/Green) reached first on a fielder's choice that put Murphy out at second, freshman outfielder Chase Knodle (Poland/Seminary) came in to pinch run. After a balk by the Wabash pitcher that scored Zimmerman to tie the game at 10-10 and advance Knodle to second, Marcum hit an infield single to move Knodle to third. Dowling came in to pinch hit and drove in Knodle with the game-winning run for the Yellow Jackets' second straight walk-off victory.
At the plate, the Yellow Jackets outhit Wabash, 14-7. BW was led by Marcum who went 3-for-5 with one run scored and two runs batted-in (RBI). In addition, Zimmerman, Murphy and Chontos each contributed two hits.
On the mound, freshman right-hander Nick Patrone (Bellaire) started and was followed in the first inning by sophomore righty Mitch Kern (Parma/Normandy) and junior right-hander Connor Murphy (Westford, Mass./Westford Academy). Murphy pitched three and one-thirds innings and allowed two runs (both earned) on four hits and two strikeouts. Junior right-handers Matt Wittels (Lyndhurst/Brush) and Tom Loeffler (Shaker Heights) combined to pitch the next three innings and did not allow any runs or hits. Junior righty Brandon Cichocki (Walled Lake, Mich./Central) threw the final two innings and earned his first win of the season. He allowed two runs (both unearned) on a strikeout and a walk.
BW is back in action tomorrow, Thursday, March 12, when it faces Ohio Wesleyan University in Port Charlotte, Florida at 3:30 p.m. The Yellow Jackets also play the University of Massachusetts-Boston on Friday at 6:00 p.m. and both Montclair State at 10:00 a.m. and Salem State (Mass.) at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday.