Friday blues: Pioneers drop 2, eliminated from OAC Tourney
The 2014 OAC Tournament came to a screeching halt for Marietta College Friday as the Pioneers lost a pair of games to John Carroll, 11-8, and Baldwin Wallace, 6-1.
After defeating the Yellow Jackets, 3-2, in dramatic fashion Thursday to open the tournament, the Pios could do nothing to stop the bats of the Blue Streaks in game one and then could not get any offense going in the nightcap against Baldwin Wallace, resulting in elimination.
“We picked a bad day to play bad is the best way I can sum it up,” lamented Marietta skipper Brian Brewer, whose team will find out Monday if it gets an at-large bid in next week’s regional tournament.
“We’ll see how the chips fall here down the road.”
Against John Carroll, Marietta found itself in an early hole when the Blue Streaks touched up pitcher Jason Byers for a four-spot in the opening inning.
Marietta, however, would rally to tie the game up in the third inning. Tyler Packanik and Tim McCoy both scored on wild pitches in the inning before Ryan Hanahan collected an RBI single and Ryan Annett drew a bases-loaded walk to make it a brand new ball-game.
Byers appeared to be finding his groove, holding John Carroll scoreless in the fourth before the Pioneers took the lead the next half-inning. McCoy led off the inning with a single to right field and advanced to second base on Zach Bukiewicz’s sacrifice bunt. After advancing to third on an error, McCoy came in to score on a balk by the pitcher to make it a 5-4 game.
The Blue Streaks didn’t stay down long, though, scoring two runs apiece in the fifth and sixth innings to pull ahead 8-5 and chase Byers from the game.
The Pioneers would plate two in the seventh on a solo homer by Christian Demko and an RBI-double by Chris Winpigler to cut it to 8-7 and put themselves in striking distance.
However, Christian Gentile gave John Carroll a trio of insurance runs on a three-run bomb off the left field scoreboard in the ninth off Marietta reliever Mike Fulton.
With the Blue Streaks now up 11-7, MC needed a big ninth inning rally. Hanahan hit a solo home run, but that was all the Pios could scratch across.
That sent them to the loser’s bracket for a rematch against Baldwin Wallace, which eliminated Heidelberg 13-11 in the second game Friday.
After a rain delay pushed the opening pitch back to 7:53 p.m., Marietta finally was able to score first in a tournament game.
Demko cranked Baldwin Wallace starter Logan Heffernan’s third pitch of the game to deep left field for a double. When Demko attempted to steal third during the next at-bat, a throwing error by the catcher allowed him to come in and touch home.
The lead was short-lived, though, as the Yellow Jackets rallied for two in the second. With the bases loaded and one out, Marietta starter Tyler Nieberding got Alex Green to ground to short for a potential double play. The ball was bobbled, though, and Marietta could only get one out on the play which allowed Joe Hiller to score from third and tie the game. The next batter, Brad Gugliotta, singled to left field to bring in another run and make the score 2-1.
Heffernan retired the Pioneers in order in the second and third innings before Baldwin Wallace struck again in the top of the fourth. Eric Murphy started the inning with a double, but Nieberding retired the next two batters and was close to escaping any damage. That’s when Green stepped into the box and punched a ball over the right field fence for a two-run dinger to make BW’s lead 4-1.
Marietta threatened in the fifth and sixth innings, both times having two runners on base, but were unable to get the big two-out knock off of Heffernan.
Baldwin Wallace tacked on runs in the fifth and the eighth to build its lead to five, 6-1. On this night, it was too much for the Etta Express to overcome.
“(Baldwin Wallace) did a nice job offensively,” Brewer said. “We just pitched behind in the count too much. We didn’t do some things offensively that we’ve got to do when you’re playing a quality opponent like that.”
For Baldwin Wallace, it was a little bit of redemption from Thursday’s loss.
“Today we got a great start from Logan (Heffernan),” said BW head coach Brian Harrison. “That put us in a great position to win. And we finished, so we feel a little bit better than yesterday.
“It’s a game of momentum. We had some two-out RBI hits. The two-out home run by Green was awesome. Yesterday against Marietta I think we were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. So it was nice that we got some two-out hits.”
Heffernan went eight innings, striking out five, walking two and allowing just the one run in the first inning. In an elimination game on the Pioneers’ home turf, it was a big performance for the freshman right-hander.
“I was really, really happy with my performance,” Heffernan said.
“Once I was able to settle in and kind of take control of the game, it was good from there.”
The losses dropped Marietta’s record to 29-14 on the year. The Pioneers will have to wait and see if they get to play baseball again this season.
“We knew any of the four teams could win this thing,” Brewer said. “It was a matter of who played well, who got hot at the right time. There will certainly be a deserving champion at the end of this weekend. Whoever that is gets the automatic (bid) and the rest of us are going to have to wait and see what the committee decides.”