TIFFIN – As the innings wore on in game two of an OAC doubleheader between Heidelberg University and Wilmington College on Saturday, the pressure kept building. Sophomore Derek Hendrixson carried a perfect game into the 8th inning, but a ball blooped down the right field line for a single ended the chance at perfection. That turned out to be the only hit for the Quakers, as Heidelberg swept the twinbill with a 12-0 shutout in game two, which followed a 5-3 win in the opener. The pair of wins kept the Student Princes in first place in the Ohio Athletic Conference standings with an 11-3 mark.
The Student Princes wasted no time in game one to get on the scoreboard, scoring in the bottom of the first on a sacrifice fly by Eric Monroe.
After a pair of scoreless innings thrown by game one starter Adam Manner, Heidelberg struck again in the third. Alex Grove ripped a one-out RBI single to right center, scoring Monroe. The next batter, Doug Miller, picked up an RBI on a fielder's choice to give the Berg a 3-0 lead.
Manner continued to control the game on the mound, keeping Wilmington scoreless as the Student Princes came to bat in the fifth. The Berg was able to take advantage of an error by the Quakers to plate two more, making their lead 5-0.
In the top of the sixth, Wilmington was able to score their first run of the game, scoring off an error by the Student Princes.
The bats for Heidelberg (24-6, 11-3 OAC) went quiet in the late innings, as they got runners on base but were unable to add to their lead.
Wilmington (3-25, 0-14 OAC) was able to inch closer in the seventh when a two-run homer cut the Berg lead to just two.
With the 5-3 score headed to the ninth, sophomore Jordan Watson came on in relief with the bases loaded and just one out. He was able to handle the pressure, however, and pitched well to record a fly out and strike out to end the game and earn his first save of the season.
Manner (5-0) threw another solid conference game in his fifth start of the year, picking up the win. He ended his day on the mound after going eight innings, allowing just five hits and three walks. Manner allowed three runs with only one being earned, striking out five to lower his ERA on the year to an impressive 1.97 with 50.1 innings pitched.
The second game turned out to be all about Hendrixson's pursuit of perfection on the mound. It was just his second start of the season, with his first coming this past Tuesday when he threw a 7-hit shutout of #24 John Carroll on the road. After spending the majority of the year as the closer for the Berg with an OAC-leading seven saves, Hendrixson looked right at home with a start again on Saturday.
In the top of the first, he set down the Quakers in order with one strikeout.
Heidelberg struck early offensively, just like game one, when Christian Verde hit a two-RBI single up the middle to give the Student Princes a 2-0 lead.
In the top of the second, Hendrixson struck out a pair to retire the side in order.
The Berg added on to their lead with another in the second when T.J. Harkness doubled down the left field line with two outs, making the score 3-0.
In the top of the third, Hendrixson picked up another 1-2-3 inning with one strikeout.
Doug Miller highlighted a two-run third inning for Heidelberg with an RBI single to center, stretching the Berg lead to five.
Hendrixson retired the Quakers in order quickly in the top of the fourth, throwing just 10 pitches in the inning.
Heidelberg tacked on one more run to their lead in the bottom of the frame when Evan Long doubled in Harkness.
In the top of the fifth, Hendrixson retired the side in order with one punchout.
The Student Princes did not let up offensively in the fifth, scoring two more thanks to RBI singles by Miller and Joey Rydzewski.
Hendrixson cruised through the top of the sixth with one more strikeout.
After Heidelberg did not score in the sixth, their first scoreless inning of the game, one would typically think the momentum may effect Hendrixson headed to the seventh, but it turned out to be the opposite. He turned up the heat, striking out the side in order to make it 21-straight retired to open the game.
The Berg found a way to get back into the scoring column in the seventh when Austin Fleming hit his first career home run, a solo shot to left field with two outs.
Going to the eighth inning with the perfect game still intact, Hendrixson looked to continue his groove. The leadoff hitter for Wilmington had different plans, however, as he hit a soft fly ball down the right field line that dropped for a single on an 0-2 count. Hendrixson limited the Quakers to just that, as he then picked up a strikeout, groundout, and a fly ball to end the inning.
Heidelberg made up for that run allowed in the top of the inning when they scored three in the bottom of the frame as Verde, Grove, and Miller each picked up an RBI to make the score 12-0.
To start the ninth, Heidelberg head coach Chad Fitzgerald opted to go with sophomore Cory Jacobs to finish the game, ending Hendrixson's spectacular game on the mound. Jacobs picked up where Hendrixson left off, striking out the side while allowing one walk to cap off the win.
Hendrixson ended his day with eight innings pitched while allowing just one hit and no walks in the 12-0 rout. He struck out a career-high 10 batters while improving to 5-0 on the year.
Morse, Harkness and Grove each picked up four hits apiece in the sweep to lead Heidelberg offensively. Miller led the way with four runs driven in while Rydzewski and Monroe each recorded a pair of stolen bases.
EXTRA BASES: Hendrixson and Manner are now ranked first and third in the conference in ERA.
Hendrixson improved on his already-impressive stat line with his nearly-perfect game. He now holds a 0.66 ERA in 41 innings pitched with opponents batting just .145 off of him. Hendrixson has struck out 54 batters on the year while allowing just three walks.
For the week, Hendrixon threw 17 innings while allowing no runs, eight hits, and no walks while striking out 16 with one complete game shutout and a pair of wins.
Derek Hendrixson on his game: "It felt good. I knew from the start that it felt good and everything was working. Not walking anyone is my pet peeve, so that's what I try to do."
Hendrixson on battling back in the count: "Just focus on the mitt. Those are the points where you have to dial it in most because free bases are something that will kill you in a game."
Hendrixon on allowing the hit: "I definitely knew (about the perfect game). I tried to just block it out and get it out of my mind. I had him down 0-2 and missed with a fastball, and when you make mistakes, that kind of stuff will happen."
Head coach Chad Fitzgerald on game one: "Everyone who comes here and plays us wants to give us their best effort and their kid came out and threw a competitive game. I think we tried to do too much on a day that you think would be good to hit but wasn't. We just found a way to win."
Fitzgerald on Hendrixson's transition from closer to starter: "He's just a really good pitcher when it comes down to it. He takes the same philosophy he would in the closer role and applies it to starting and throwing for nine innings. I don't think it's a big adjustment for him, as we talked about it throughout the year early. Where we're at right now we needed him to start and it hasn't been a problem for him."
Heidelberg will be on the road during the week for a pair of non-conference games with NCAC foes. On Tuesday, the Student Princes will travel to Wittenberg for a 6:00 p.m. game while on Wednesday they will travel to Wooster for a game scheduled to start at 4:00 p.m.