Etta Express splits twinbill with Mount Union

JORDAN HOLLAND The Marietta Times Marietta College pitcher John Stover, left, bumps fists with catcher Brady Cottom after pitching a scoreless inning during a college baseball game against Mount Union Tuesday at Don Schaly Stadium.

Marietta College split its fifth straight doubleheader Tuesday at Don Schaly Stadium, falling to Mount Union 8-7 before winning the nightcap 5-1.

“I told them I think this might be the best 18 innings we’ve put together this year,” said Marietta head coach Brian Brewer. “As a whole, it’s hard to be disappointed. We’re disappointed in the loss. I think we let one slip away, but they’re a pretty good club. We’ve just got to continue to clean up a few little things.”

Marietta struck first in the nightcap, loading the bases with two outs in the bottom of the second. Drew Wilkinson grounded deep into the hole at shortstop for an infield single, plating Logan Vietmeier. Damian Yenzi then drew a walk to bring in Drew Holderbach before Eddie Poster scored on a wild pitch. Mount Union starter Carson Davis escaped further damage with a strikeout.

Mike Hale led off the bottom of the third with a popup double into no-man’s land in right. He advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on Holderbach’s RBI groundout to third base, making it 4-0.

After putting up zeroes for the first four innings, Marietta starting pitcher John Stover got into some trouble in the top of the fifth, but got bailed out by some good defensive work from left fielder Alex Page. Page tracked down Billy Goodall’s flyball to left and gunned down Niklas Kuriger at home. Mount Union did get a run on a wild pitch later in the inning, but Stover got a strikeout to strand two runners and preserve the 4-1 lead.

Mount Union threatened again in the sixth, loading the bases on a walk, a base hit and a hit batter. Stover was relieved by Sam Mathews, who got a quick groundout to end the threat.

Marietta got an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth when Poster scored on Wilkinson’s sacrifice fly to center, making it 5-1.

Stover picked up the win while Mathews earned the save. Davis was tagged with the loss for Mount.

“I thought the ball was coming out of John’s hand better than I’ve seen it come out all year,” Brewer said. “He’s had one or two innings where he’s thrown the ball that well, but I thought he threw the ball really well for five-plus innings tonight.”

Mathews’ 3 1-3 scoreless frames came after he took the relief loss in game one. Brewer was impressed with the way his freshman reliever bounced back.

“That just kind of confirms what we’ve thought all along with Sam,” Brewer said. “For those backend (of the bullpen) guys, it’s as much mental as it is physical. For him to come back after what happened to him in the first game, just really concretes his spot there. He’s our guy from innings seven and on in a tight game.”

Like the second game, Marietta started game one by jumping out to a 4-0 lead. Hale doubled in Yenzi in the bottom of the first to make it 1-0. Seamus Kenneally hit a two-run double in the fourth before scoring on Brady Cottom’s RBI single.

However, the Purple Raiders got all those runs back in the top of the fifth. Goodall’s three-run home run preceded Bryant Kennedy’s RBI single to tie things up at 4-all.

Goodall struck again with a two-run shot in the sixth to give Mount Union a 6-4 lead.

The Etta Express rallied in the bottom of the eighth, sending three runners across the plate. With the bases loaded and two outs, Wilkinson’s grounder to second was misplayed, allowing Holderbach to score. Vietmeier was called on to pinch-hit and the freshman cashed in with a two-run double to left field to give Marietta a 7-6 lead. Wilkinson attempted to score from first on the play, Mount Union’s relay throw was in time to record the third out.

That proved to be a big out as Mount Union plated a pair of runs in the ninth. With runners at first and second and one out, Collin Scott’s bloop single to center tied the game. Later, with the bases loaded and still one out,

Nathan Duliba’s RBI groundout to shortstop plated Kennedy from third to give the Raiders a one-run lead.

Dan Zelina, who had been on the hook for the loss after allowing three unearned runs in the eighth, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his first win of the season. Starter Phil Mary worked the first seven innings, walking one and striking out eight in a no-decision.

Mathews pitched the ninth inning for Marietta and was charged with the loss. Starter Jared Strickler went 4 2-3 innings with five walks and two punchouts. Brenden Lacorato worked 3 1-3 innings of relief, walking three and fanning seven.

“There were four or five little things in game one,” Brewer lamented. “We walked their nine-hitter (Duliba) twice and gave him a bunt single once to get to back to (Goodall), the kid that killed us. The doubleplay we didn’t turn … now it’s three-run shot instead of a solo shot. There were like four or five things in game one that aren’t going to show up in the boxscore, but if we do those things, I think it makes a big difference in game one.”

Marietta, which plays host to 23rd-ranked Denison at 7 p.m. Thursday, saw its record go to 10-13 overall and 4-4 in the Ohio Athletic Conference. Mount Union is now 16-8 overall and 3-5 in the OAC.