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Baseball Team Getting Hot at the Right Time

Baseball Team Getting Hot at the Right Time

BEREA, Ohio – The Baldwin Wallace University baseball team has four Ohio Athletic Conference games left in its regular season and is getting hot at the right time.  The Yellow Jackets, 18-17 overall and in third place in the OAC Standings at 10-4, need to win one of their final four contests to earn a spot in the 2016 OAC Tournament and have a shot at returning to the NCAA Division III National Tournament for the third straight year.

Compared to the past four years when the Yellow Jackets set a school record for victories each season, 27-13 in 2012, 27-13 in 2013, 30-20 in 2014 with an NCAA Div. III regional title and their first-ever trip to the Div. III College World Series and 31-12 last season and a return trip to the NCAA regional tourney, this year has been different. BW probably will not set a record for wins, but it is hot at the right time, and that may be the most important factor as the Yellow Jackets play their most important games in 2016.

BW has won its last six games, including OAC sweeps of Ohio Northern University (13-0 and 10-2) and Capital University (23-0 and 5-2) and non-conference wins against Pitt-Bradford (14-7) and 20-win Pitt-Greensburg (19-5).  Both the BW batters and pitchers are hitting the strides and the Jackets have outscored their opponents by a combined 84-16. BW also has won 10 of its last 12 games and scored 10 or more runs in eight of the 10 victories.

One of the biggest concerns all season has been the fielding. BW has a 35-game fielding mark of .949 with 69 errors (2.07 per game). But, in the last six contests, Brian Harrison's squad has committed just nine (1.5 per game), and that is better. It's not great. It's not optimal. But it shows improvement in quite possibly the most important aspect of the game of baseball.

The hitting attack is led by its trio of All-OAC standouts in senior pitcher/ shortstop Mark Zimmerman (Akron/ Green), senior first baseman/ designated hitter Hunter Handel (Akron/ Green) and junior 2B/ right fielder Cole Nieto (Brunswick/ Cleveland St. Ignatius). Zimmerman is batting .a team-leading .354 with 12 doubles and three home runs and 24 runs batted-in (RBI) and is a perfect 15-for-15 in stolen bases. Handel is batting .344 with 10 doubles, three homers and a team-high 38 RBI. Nieto is batting .278 with 10 doubles, a team-high five homers and 24 RBI.

In addition, Harrison has a bevy of other hitters who are all just as hot, including freshman OF Reese Albright (North Royalton), who is hitting .348, junior catcher/ OF Alex Marcum (Granville), who is batting .275 with one homer and 33 RBI, and sophomore catcher Trent Kaltenbach (Plain City/ Jonathan Alder), who had a single-game school-record four doubles last week versus Pitt-Greensburg.

In the last 12 games, BW has raised its batting average 43 points from .241 to its current .284 and outscored its opponents, 134-36.

The pitching staff is anchored by Zimmerman with a 6-3 won-loss record, a 3.07 earned run average (ERA) and an OAC-leading 78 strikeouts in a team-high 58 and two-third innings pitched. He is joined in the starting rotation by sophomore All-OAC left-hander Evan Lovick (Mentor), senior Alex Albright (North Royalton) and three others. Lovick tops the OAC with a microscopic 0.65 ERA and is 2-1 with two saves in 41 and one-third innings of work. Albright is 5-3 with a save with a 3.65 ERA and 62 whiffs in 56 and two-third innings pitched.

Add junior All-OAC righty Logan Heffernan (Lebanon), who is 3-0 with a 4.18 ERA, and senior Connor Murphy (Westford, Mass./ Northeast), who is 0-3 but sports a 1.50 ERA, and Harrison has two guys who can start or relieve that he can depend upon. In the bullpen, senior Tom Loeffler (Shaker Heights) has been the most reliable guy lately. He is 0-0 with a save and a 2.20 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 16 and one-third innings pitched in 10 appearances.

BW is back in action this Friday, May 6 when it hoststhe University of Mount Union in an OAC doubleheader at Fisher Field. The first game starts at 1 p.m. Mt. Union (18-17, 8-8 OAC) is in a must-win situation. One Yellow Jacket win gets them in the OAC tourney. A sweep eliminates the Purple Raiders.

A Mt. Union sweep of BW forces the Yellow Jackets to win one of its two final OAC games. BW ends the OAC regular season on Sunday, May 8 when the Jackets travel to New Concord to play a twinbill at Muskingum University. The first game starts at 1 p.m. The OAC Tournament starts on Thursday, May 12 at the site of the regular season champion.