MARIETTA - The Marietta College baseball team never stopped battling.
Unfortunately for the Pioneers, neither did Otterbein.
After building a big lead, the Cardinals fought off a ferocious rally attempt by the Pioneers to stay alive in the OAC Tournament.
Photo by Jordan Holland
Marietta College’s Mike Mulvey fires home a pitch in the third inning of an OAC Tournament game against John Carroll Saturday at Don Schaly Stadium.
After going back and forth with John Carroll for 13 innings earlier in the day, Marietta was finally halted by Otterbein's bullpen.
After seeing their 10-4 lead shrink to 10-8, the Cards brought in reliever David Cydrus. Cydrus quickly retired the first two Marietta batters he faced before Jordan Grilliot laced the first pitch he saw the other way for a two-out double. Cydrus then walked Evan Brockmeier and plunked Chris Winpigler to load the bases. With Alex Toth at the plate, Cydrus came through for the Cardinals with a four-pitch strikeout to get out of the jam.
Cydrus returned to the hill to close out the game in the ninth. After getting ahead of leadoff batter Mitch Geers 0-2, the sophomore outfielder punched a single up the middle to bring the tying run to the plate. Cydrus bounced back to strike out Aaron Hopper and Bryan Gregorich before getting pinch-hitter Josh Ungerbuehler to fly out to right to end the game.
"It's really disappointing," said Marietta head coach Brian Brewer. "(Starting pitcher Mike) Finlan has been good for us all year. He wasn't really sharp today. I probably did some things lineup-wise that I'm gonna second-guess for a couple days, but we showed a lot of heart."
Finlan (4-1) was tagged with loss, lasting just two innings and surrendering five earned runs. Taylor Ellis (5-5) gave up eight earned runs in six innings to pick up the win. Cydrus earned his first save.
The two teams traded blows in the first inning.
With runners on the corners and one out in the top of the first, Sean Kettering singled to left field to plate Billy Harkenrider and put Otterbein on the board against Finlan. Then, with Thomas Linder at the plate, Will Meadows stole third and scored when Winpigler's throw from behind the plate went into the outfield. Kettering went to third on the play and scored one batter later Nich Pitzer singled to left, giving the Cardinals a 3-0 lead.
Grilliot led off the bottom of the first with a single to center. Later in the inning, Winpigler stung an Ellis offering deep to right field. Otterbein right fielder Linder ran into the wall in an attempt to make the catch and got his leg caught in the fencing, allowing Winpigler to come all the around for a two-run inside-the-park home run.
The Cardinals matched their first inning run total in the second. Chad Webster led off with a double and went to third on a ground out. He then scored on Tyler Kent's sacrifice fly to right field. Harkenrider followed with a base knock before Meadows made it a 6-2 game with a two-run bomb to left-center.
With Christian Herstine on the mound for MC, Otterbein tacked on two more runs in the top of the fourth to make it an 8-2 game. With Kent on second, Harkenrider tripled to right-center. After an intentional walk to Meadows, Harkenrider came home on Kettering's fly out to Grilliot in right to make it a six-run affair.
In the bottom half of the fifth inning, Winpigler's second two-run dinger of the game, this one over the left field fence, made it a four-run game ay 8-4.
Otterbein got those runs back immediately. Jimmy Waterwash doubled down the right field line and then Kent tripled to left-center to make it 9-4. After Herstine punched out Harkenrider and intentionally walked Meadows, a wild pitch allowed Kent to cross the plate. Meadows, who was running on the pitch, went all the way around to third. With the infield in, Kettering bounced to Gregorich at third, who gunned down Meadows at the plate to keep the score at 10-4.
The Etta Express turned a laugher into a nail-biter with a four-spot in the bottom of the seventh. Ryan Hanahan and Grilliot led off with back-to-back singles to start the frame. After a bunt-single by Brockmeier to load the bases, Winpigler ripped a single up the middle to drive in Hanahan and Grilliot and make it a 10-6 ball game. Toth kept it going with a single to center to reload the base before Ellis was relieved on the mound by Jon Cheyney. Cheyney was greeted by Geers with an RBI-single to left that plated Brockmeier. Hopper followed by hitting into a 4-3 double play that brought Winpigler across for a run to make it 10-8.
"We showed a lot of heart battling back here," Brewer said. "It's a credit to our kids and a credit to our club. I'm proud of them and everything they've accomplished."
After getting two quick outs in the top of the eighth, Herstine was pulled in favor of left-hander Jason Byers.
Byers, who started in the opening round of the OAC Tournament against Otterbein, pitched 1.1 innings of scoreless relief to keep Marietta in the game, but the bats couldn't quite come up with the big hit late in the game.
The win secured Otterbein's spot in tournament championship. The Cardinals will have to beat Mount Union twice to win the title.