WESTERVILLE – The Heidelberg University baseball team locked up a spot in the upcoming OAC tournament on Sunday, sweeping a doubleheader from host Otterbein. The 7th-ranked Student Princes held on for a 9-6 victory in the opener before exploding on offense in the second game for an 18-3 blowout of the Cardinals. With just two conference games remaining, Heidelberg can clinch the outright regular-season conference crown with at least a split with #22 Ohio Northern next Saturday in Tiffin.
In game one, the Student Princes broke open the scoring in the top of the second. After the first two batters of the inning reached base, Evan Long drove in the game's first run with a sacrifice fly. The Berg scored one run on a balk before T.J. Harkness made it 3-0 with another sacrifice fly to center. With two outs, Eric Monroe doubled down the left field line to score a pair, while Christian Verde capped off the inning with an RBI single to make the score 6-0 in favor of the Student Princes.
Otterbein (22-11, 9-7 OAC) was able to inch closer in the middle innings, scoring one in the third and three in the fourth off of Heidelberg starter Adam Manner, but the Student Princes had an answer in the sixth.
An RBI single by Derek Hug paired with a sacrifice fly by Monroe made the score 8-4 for the Berg headed to the bottom of the sixth.
The Cardinals responded with two of their own in the bottom of the frame, cutting the Berg lead to two.
That 8-6 lead held going to the ninth inning, where Heidelberg tacked on one insurance run when Steven Morse hit an RBI single to drive in Monroe.
Sam Ankrom came on to close for the Berg in the ninth and did a solid job in his first appearance as the closer. He allowed a walk after retiring the first two batters of the inning, but was able to limit Otterbein to just that, getting the next batter to ground into a fielder's choice to end the game. Ankrom picked up his first save of the year, striking out one in his inning of relief.
Manner (6-0) picked up the win after throwing five-plus innings. He allowed six runs, four earned, and seven hits while striking out five during his time on the mound.
Jimmy Kenosh helped Heidelberg's lead hold in relief of Manner, throwing three innings while not givine up a run. He allowed two hits and no walks while striking out a pair.
Heidelberg (27-7, 13-3 OAC) made sure to not allow the second game to be quite as nail-biting, as they pulled away early.
After scoring two in the second inning, the Student Princes went for seven runs in the third to take a commanding 9-1 lead. Grove, Long, Monroe, and Doug Miller all picked up RBI as Heidelberg built their early lead.
On the mound for the Berg was Derek Hendrixson, and he was in control as usual. In the second inning, Otterbein scored their lone run off the ace with a solo home run, the first of the year given up by the sophomore. He finished his day going six innings while allowing just the one run while striking out eight.
In the fourth, Heidelberg added on to their lead when Hug led off the inning with a homer, his ninth of the season. Later in the inning, Long made the score 11-1 with an RBI single.
Not stopping there, the Student Princes continued to pour it on as the game wore on, scoring four in the fifth and two in the sixth as the lead ballooned to 16 runs.
Otterbein plated a pair of runs in the eighth inning, but that was not nearly enough as Heidelberg cruised to an 18-3 win.
Ben Sniezek pitched a perfect ninth inning for the Berg, striking out one batter as he closed out the dominant win for the Student Princes.
Grove led the way for Heidelberg on offense with five hits on the day while Long drove in a team-high five runs in the sweep.
EXTRA BASES: The Student Princes picked up 8 extra-base hits in the pair of games, totaling 32 hits overall.
Hug now leads the OAC in both home runs (9) and stolen bases (18), while ranking second in batting average (.411)
The Student Princes will be back in action on Monday when they face Albion in a non-conference game at home. That contest is scheduled to start at 4:00 p.m. at Peaceful Valley in Tiffin.