Little Giants Tie For Divisional Titleby Brent Harris • April 26, 2009
A sweep of Earlham Sunday afternoon helped Wabash to an 11-5 record in the North Coast Athletic Conference Western Division and a share of the divisional title. The Little Giants defeated the Quakers 8-4 in game one and 9-1 in the conference regular season finale. (View photos from the Little Giants' game two victory here. View photos from local photographer Kevin Seale here.)
Ohio Wesleyan University split a Sunday two-game set with Wittenberg, tying the Little Giants at the top of the league standings at 11-5. The Battling Bishops took all four games in their series against third-place Denison University, while Wabash won three out of four against the Big Red to give OWU the number one seed from the West and home field in the upcoming NCAC Baseball Tournament. The berth for the Little Giants is their first since joining the conference for the 2000 baseball season.
Wabash will travel to Wooster to face the 11th-ranked Eastern Division champion Fighting Scots in the opening round of the tournament next weekend, while OWU plays at home against Eastern Division second-seed Kenyon College.
Sunday was also a record-setting day for the Little Giants. While picking up their 20th win of the season, seniors Matt Dodaro and Jake Thomas continued their assault on the record book. Thomas pounded out five hits, giving him 60 for the season to break his own single-season record of 59 set two years ago. Dodaro brought home a run in the sixth inning of game two on a ground ball to record his 111th career RBI, breaking the career mark of 110 set by Tom Quackenbush '88.
The Little Giants faced Earlham ace Alex Anderson in game one, who held Wabash to two hits and a single run in the 1-0 home victory two weeks earlier. This time the Little Giants would get to Anderson in the second inning, scoring four runs. David Seibel reached on a one-out single, scoring one batter later when Brian Lares ripped a double to left field. A single by John Pennington brought Lares home. After Derek Bailey reached on a error and PJ Tyson took first on a fielder's choice, Thomas brought two more runs home with one of his four hits in game one to put the Little Giants up 4-0.
Wabash added three more runs in the fifth on an RBI double by Thomas to score Chris Deig after a leadoff single, A single by Dodaro and wild pitch brought Thomas home with the second run of the inning. Dodaro scored on a single by Seibel to put Wabash up 7-1.
The Little Giants added one more run in the sixth on back-to-back two-out singles by Deig and Thomas for the win.
Brian Van Duyn went the distance on the mound to record his third victory of the season. The sophomore scattered 11 hits for four earned runs while striking out eight without giving up a walk.
Earlham struck first in game two, taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning before the Little Giants answered with a three-run second. Dodaro opened the inning with a triple to right, tying the game off Seibel's double to left field.
Another run scored for Wabash in the third after Thomas opened the frame with a double. He moved to third on a Dodaro ground out, then scored on what would have been a sacrifice fly off the bat of John Holm that was misplayed by the Earlham outfield. A wild pitch on a walk allowed Seibel to score after he reached on a double and moved to third on single by Tanner Coggins. An RBI single by Lares produced the final run of the inning.
The biggest hit of the game came in the fourth inning for the Little Giants. Joe Johnson led off with a hard-hit double to the left field fence. Freshman catcher Grant McCloskey launched a 1-2 over the left field wall and 450 feet from home plate to the Jennison Street parking lot, cracking the front window on a parked car and giving the Little Giants a 7-1 lead.
Wabash added two more runs when McCloskey singled, then scored on a triple by Nathan Schrader, who came home two batters later on the RBI ground out by Dodaro to set the career record.
Freshman Andrew Swart settled in after Earlham scored a run in the first, shutting out the Quakers over the next five innings. He earned his fourth win of the season, throwing a four-hitter with four walks and four K's. Luke Zinsmaster closed out the contest with an inning of one-hit baseball in the seventh along with one strikeout.
Schrader and McCloskey each had two RBI in game two. Seibel, McCloskey, and Coggins each led the Little Giants with two hits. Thomas was 4-for-4 in game one, giving him 19 hits in 28 at-bats for the week for a .679 average. He also produced four RBI in the game one victory.
The Little Giants (20-16) head to Cincinnati, Ohio Monday afternoon for two games against the University of Cincinnati-Clermont beginning at 3 o'clock. Wabash closes out the regular season Wednesday afternoon at DePauw University with a two-game set also slated to start a 3 o'clock.
Photos - (top right) Grant McCloskey is all smiles as he heads home after hitting his first collegiate home run.
(Bottom left) This Kia windshield was the unlucky landing zone for McCloskey's 450-foot blast in game two.