|by Matt Wilson, Journal Review • April 27, 2009|
Wabash baseball seniors Jake Thomas and Matt Dodaro made the most of their final home doubleheader Sunday against Earlham.
Thomas (right) doubled in the bottom of the second inning for his 60th hit of the season, breaking his record for hits in a season. Dodaro had an RBI groundout in the bottom of the sixth inning to become Wabash’s all-time RBI leader with 111.
More important than the records, however, were that Thomas and Dodaro fulfilled a college dream of leading the Little Giants to the North Coast Athletic Conference playoffs for the first time since Wabash joined the conference. Wabash swept Earlham in the doubleheader Sunday, winning the opening game 8-4 and second game 9-1 to complete a 10-6 conference season.
With the top two teams from the NCAC West advancing to the tournament, the Little Giants tied Ohio Wesleyan for the conference championship. Ohio Wesleyan won the tiebreaker over Wabash because the Battling Bishops swept Denison in a four-game series, while Wabash won three of four games from the Big Red.
Wabash (20-16) won seven of its final 10 league games and have won 12 of its last 15 games overall. The Little Giants travel to Wooster, the winner of the NCAC East Division, for a best-of-three series this weekend. Wabash and Wooster will play two nine-inning games Saturday, then if necessary will play one nine-inning game Sunday.
"For four years Jake and I have talked about how we need to get in the playoffs at least one year," Dodaro said. "We are done reading how other teams did in the playoffs and now we are going to be in the playoffs. That’s pretty cool."
The Little Giants secured their spot in the playoffs by rebounding from a 4-3 loss at Wittenberg in the first game of a doubleheader Saturday to win the second game 16-7.
Wabash found out it had the second seed in the Western Division after it was announced Ohio Wesleyan defeated Wittenberg 8-2 in the first game of a doubleheader Sunday.
Crawfordsville graduate Andrew Swart helped the Little Giants end their regular-season conference campaign on a high note. Improving to 4-1 on the season, Swart started and went six innings, allowing one earned run on four hits while striking out four batters and walking four.
After Earlham scored one run in the first inning, the Quakers were unable to score another run in the next five innings against Swart.
"I just wish Andrew could have had more starts," Wabash coach Cory Stevens said. Andrew and Brian Van Duyn have both missed starts because we’ve had games canceled because of weather. But Andrew is going out there and challenging hitters and staying ahead in the count."
The only time Swart got himself in trouble was in the sixth when he walked the bases loaded, but he got out of the inning by getting Adam Painter to line out to center fielder Brian Lares.
"I just made a good pitch in a big situation," Swart said. "Luckily we had a guy out there where the ball was hit."
Wabash continued its offensive surge with 11 hits in the second game. The big blast came from freshman Grant McCloskey, who hit a 450-foot home run over Jennison Street and leaving a spider web on the front windshield of a car in the parking lot.
All but one Little Giant batter had a hit in the contest. Six of the hits went for extra bases, including triples from Nathan Schrader and Dodaro, doubles from David Seibel, Thomas and Joe Johnson and McCloskey’s home run.
With Wabash leading 3-1, Thomas led off the bottom of the third with a double. He then scored with John Holm reached on an error.
"It’s kind of depressing that it was my own hits record that I broke," Thomas said. "But back my sophomore season when I had the 59 hits I had a professor call me out because I didn’t reach 60. So it was nice to hit 60 this year."
Wabash hits the road today for a 3 p.m. doubleheader at University of Cincinnati-Clermont.
The Little Giants then travel to DePauw on Wednesday to wrap up their regular season.