TIFFIN – In the first conference test for the 20th-ranked Heidelberg University baseball team, they passed with flying colors. The Student Princes put together two dominant pitching performances en route to a sweep of 9th-ranked Baldwin Wallace, opening up OAC play with a bang. The Berg shut down the Yellow Jackets completely in game one with a 2-0 victory, while some early offense propelled them out to a six-run lead that they held on to for a 6-3 win in game two. The pair of wins moved Heidelberg to 12-1 on the year with a 2-0 mark in conference action while Baldwin Wallace suffered their first losses of the year, dropping to 8-2 and 0-2 in OAC play.
Game one was all about pitching, as Senior Adam Manner had the start on the mound and was in control from the start for the Student Princes. Manner silenced the Yellow Jacket bats every time they were able to reach base, keeping them off the scoreboard. He finished the day going seven full innings, giving up just five hits and two walks while striking out a pair. This was his second scoreless quality start of the year, as he also earned a win back in the season-opener over Hampden-Sydney. Manner (2-0) picked up the win, throwing just 78 pitches in his seven innings of work.
Heidelberg faced some tough luck on offense to open the first game, keeping them from scoring early. In the bottom of the first with Derek Hug on third base and two out, Eric Monroe crushed a ball to deep left-center, but the BW center fielder made an impressive diving catch on the warning track to prevent the run and extra-bases from Monroe.
In the second inning the Student Princes threatened again, getting runners on second and third with no out, but a fielder's choice to get an out at home partnered with a double play for the next batter thwarted the Berg's efforts at the plate.
In the bottom of the third, Heidelberg was finally able to break into the scoring column, however, when with two outs, Steven Morse was caught stealing in a first and third situation, allowing Hug to come across the plate, giving the Student Princes an early 1-0 lead.
Thanks to shut-down pitching, that lead held until the bottom of the eighth when Monroe drilled a ball to deep right center for a triple, scoring Doug Miller, who came on to pinch run for Morse earlier in the inning.
Those two runs were plenty for the Berg in game one, as the pitching held down the fort for the win. Sophomore Derek Hendrixson came on in relief of Manner to close out the game in the eighth and ninth, throwing two scoreless innings to pick up his fourth save of the year. Hendrixson gave up two hits and no walks while striking out four in his two innings, closing out the game-one win between the two ranked opponents.
Game two started was much like the first from the get-go, as solid pitching led Heidelberg early on. Junior Kyle Fluharty got the not on the mound in the second game, picking up where Hendrixson left off in game one by keeping the Yellow Jackets at bay. He held Baldwin Wallace scoreless through six innings, allowing the Berg to build up a six-run lead in the middle innings. Fluharty finished off his afternoon going 6.2 innings, giving up six hits and three runs while striking out seven in the game to earn his second win of the year.
With the game in a scoreless tie headed to the bottom of the fourth, Monroe got things going with a one-out double to right center, followed quickly by Christian Verde, who doubled to deep left to score the first run of the game. The Student Princes added on one more in the inning when Hendrixson, the starting left fielder in game two, looped a single to right field to score Verde.
After a 1-2-3 inning by Fluharty in the fifth, the bats came alive again for the Berg in the bottom of the frame. Morse opened up the scoring for the inning with a double down the right field line, plating Evan Long, who singled to lead off. Monroe followed Morse with an infield single to score Alex Grove to push the lead to 4-0. With two outs, Adam Hershberger drove a single to center to score Morse and make the Heidelberg lead 5-0 heading to the sixth.
The Student Princes pushed one more run across the plate in the sixth inning before Fluharty ran into a little trouble in the seventh. Freshman Sam Ankrom came on in relief of Fluharty, and after giving up a single to the first batter he faced, he settled in nicely. Ankrom finished up his outing going 1.1 innings, giving up just the one hit while striking out a pair.
Hendrixson was called upon to close out the game again, moving to the mound from left field in the ninth. After getting the first two batters out to lead off the inning, he gave up a pair of hits, but that did not faze him, as he struck out the final batter of the game for his fifth save of the year, clinching the sweep for the Student Princes.
Verde led the offense for the Berg on the day with four hits in the doubleheader, driving in one during the pair of wins. Monroe drilled a double and a triple on the afternoon while driving in one, while Morse had a pair of double with two RBI in the victories.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Continuing on what they did in Florida, Heidelberg drew eight walks in the wins, four in each game, compared to just three walks total by the Berg pitchers on the afternoon.
Hendrixson leads the conference with his five saves, while no one else has more than two.
Head coach Chad Fitzgerald on what was the difference today: "Unbelievable starting pitching. Adam and Kyle both came out and gave us a chance to win. That's one of the best offenses in the country and they shut them down for six and seven innings, respectively. Derek came in and slammed the door in both games and Sam came in a big spot as a freshman, and that was awesome. Pitching won the day for us."
Fitzgerald on the hitting in the two games: "We still haven't clicked offensively. There are key situations I think we could do better in, but I'm excited to see what happens when it clicks."
The Heidelberg baseball team will be at home again for the next game, facing La Roche College on Tuesday. That non-conference game is scheduled for a 4:00 p.m. first pitch at Peaceful Valley in Tiffin.