TIFFIN – It has been just one season, but Heidelberg head coach Chad Fitzgerald already has one OAC Title under his belt. The Student Princes claimed the outright conference championship with an 8-1 victory over #20 Ohio Northern in game one of a doubleheader, earning the right to host the conference tournament in the coming week. Heidelberg went on to split the pair of games with the Polar Bears, dropping the second game by a 5-4 score.
It marks the sixth regular-season conference championship in school history for Heidelberg and the first since the 2010 team that made a run to the Division III World Series.
On senior day, Adam Manner was brilliant on the mound in game one, opening the game by working around a leadoff walk with a double play and a fly ball to bring the Berg to the plate.
In the bottom of the first, the Student Princes struck quickly and took a 1-0 lead after Eric Monroe drove in Doug Miller with an RBI groundout. The next batter, Derek Hug, hit an inside-the-park home run to right center field for the second run of the inning. With two outs, Heidelberg was able to score one more off an error by the Polar Bears.
After the first inning, pitching took over as Manner was dealing. He used some solid defensive play behind them to keep Ohio Northern off the scoreboard as Heidelberg came to bat in the seventh with a 4-0 lead.
The Student Princes had a power outburst in the seventh as both Evan Long and Miller hit home runs to right, pushing the Berg lead to seven runs.
Heidelberg tacked on one more run in the bottom of the eighth to take an 8-0 lead to the ninth.
Manner, who had been in total control all day, made his lone mistake of the afternoon when Dan Belliveau squared up a pitch for a solo home run in the ninth, but that was all ONU would get, as Manner finished off the complete game and Heidelberg dogpiled, which started when Alex Grove tacked Manner on the mound. He ended his day going the full nine innings while giving up eight hits and just one walk, striking out four. Manner threw 111 pitches in the game as he improved to 7-0 on the season.
Game two starter Derek Hendrixson picked up right where Manner left off, shutting down the Polar Bears early on.
Heidelberg took an early 1-0 lead with an RBI single off the bat of Christian Verde in the first.
Ohio Northern was able to score one unearned run in the third inning to knot up the score.
Hendrixson kept that game a tie as Heidelberg came to bat in the fifth. Monroe blasted a two-run home run to left in the inning, to give the Student Princes a 3-1 lead.
The Berg added one more to their lead in the seventh then Verde came through with another RBI single
After Heidelberg went to the bullpen to start the eighth inning, Ohio Northern's bats started to come alive. The Polar Bears struck for three in the eighth and one in the ninth inning to take a 5-4 lead.
In the bottom of the ninth, Heidelberg would not go down without a fight. After Miller led off the inning getting hit by a pitch, Monroe came to bat with already one home run in the game. He took a two-strike curveball and got almost all of it, but ONU's center fielder made a catch right up against the wall in deep left center to record the out. The next batter, Hug, almost mimicked Monroe's blast to left, but once again the ball was caught on the warning track in one of the deepest parts of Peaceful Valley. ONU was able to escape the inning and earn a spot in the upcoming OAC tournament with the win, holding on 5-4.
Kyle Fluharty took the loss in relief and dropped to 3-4 on the season.
Hendrixon had another strong outing, which has been the norm for him this season. He finished the day going seven innings while giving up seven hits and no walks while striking out five and allowing one unearned run. He wrapped up the regular season with a 0.67 ERA in 54 innings with 67 strikeouts.
Following the doubleheader, the nine seniors for the Heidelberg baseball program were recognized for their contributions and effort over the last four years. Austin Fleming, Travis Gray, Alex Grove, Adam Manner, Doug Miller, Eric Monroe, Steven Morse, Trevor Oldham, and Christian Verde were all honored with a postgame ceremony on the field.
Heidelberg will host the OAC Tournament, which will begin on Thursday, May 7th. Information on the tournament will be released early in the next week.