College baseball: Pioneers win big

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – If anyone thought the Marietta College baseball team was still dwelling on the disappointing end to the OAC Tournament, they were proven wrong quickly Wednesday night.

The Pioneers (30-12) jumped out to 4-0 lead in the first three innings of a first round Division III Mideast Regional Tournament game against Penn State-Behrend and added seven more runs in their final two at-bats to blow out the Lions 11-1 at Art Nehf Field on the campus of Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind.

It was an all-around solid performance by the Brian Brewer-coached club.

“We played pretty clean defensively,” Brewer noted in a phone interview after the game. “I didn’t realize until after the game that we struck out 11 times. That’s still too much, but we came up with some big two-out hits with runners in scoring position, which is encouraging.”

On the mound, freshman Jason Byers (7-2) was nothing short of outstanding, tossing eight scoreless innings while striking 10 batters. The southpaw allowed just five hits and walked one batter to earn his seventh victory of the season. Sophomore Mike Fulton pitched the final inning for Marietta, striking out one and surrendering the only Lion run.

“I thought Byers was exceptional,” Brewer said. “It looked like he had better command of his curveball and changeup than he’s had all year. He was really good.”

Ryan Jacobs (8-2) put together a quality start for the Lions (30-11), but not quality enough as he allowed three earned runs in seven innings. He punched out nine Pioneer batters. The Etta Express took advantage of shaky bullpen work from PSU-Behrend, as Matt Parnes and Jay Condit each failed to record an out on the mound for the Lions and gave up a combined six earned runs. Tyler Geer came on to get PSU out of the nightmarish eighth inning, punching out two batters. In the opening frame, seniors Jordan Grilliot and Evan Brockmeier led off with consecutive singles before sophomore Chris Winpigler bunted them over. Senior Alex Toth punched a single to the right side to drive both runners in and stake MC to a 2-0 lead, which turned out to be all the Pios needed. They added two more in the third on a Mitch Geers RBI-double and an Aaron Hopper sacrifice fly.

Marietta made it 5-0 in the seventh. With Brockmeier and Winpigler on the corners and nobody out, Toth hit into a 4-6-3 double play, but Brockmeier crossed the plate on the play to make it a five-run game. Then, the Etta Express ran a train on the Lions in the eighth, as four hits, three walks, a hit batsman and a sacrifice fly led to six Marietta runs, making it 11-0. The Pios will now compete in the winners bracket today at 7:45 p.m. against Thomas More, who defeated Wooster 20-4 Wednesday night. “We feel really good about the way we’re playing right now,” Brewer said. “Thomas More is a really good team. We watched them today and it seemed like everything they swung at they crushed. It should be a good game.”

The Lions will face Wooster at 1:15 p.m. in an elimination game.