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Etta Express takes two from Blue Streaks

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Wheeler Marietta College’s Zach Boyd (21) takes a swing during a college baseball game against John Carroll Saturday at Don and Sue Schaly Stadium at Pioneer Park.

There haven’t been a lot of pressure moments in Marietta College baseball games this season.

The Division III 12th-ranked Pioneers have outscored their opponents 166-28 through 13 games, which included a doubleheader sweep of John Carroll Friday at Pioneer Park. The Pioneers won 6-2 in game and 7-1 in game two.

Game two was tied at 1-1 in the top of the sixth when Marietta starter Nicklaus Brown walked back-to-back batters, leading to one of those rare pressure situations. With one out, Marietta called on senior reliever Isaac Danford to get out of the jam. Danford, a Marietta High grad, delivered, getting a strikeout and a flyout to left — Zach Boyd made a spectacular diving catch — to preserve the tie.

The Pioneers (12-1) created some two-out lightning in the bottom half of the sixth. Brady Cottom started the rally with a single to center field before coming all the way around to score on Trent Castle’s double to left-center. Drew Wilkinson made it 3-1 on a triple to the right-center gap to plate Castle.

Danford finished the game on the mound, allowing just one hit in 3 2/3 innings. He struck out six batters to earn the win.

“He’s got to be a guy for us, there’s no question,” Marietta head coach Brian Brewer said of Danford. “We believe he has the stuff to be a really good middle inning guy for us. These first few weeks we haven’t had really close games so it’s been tough to put them in those pressure spots. There was a little more pressure involved in the situation today and it was good to see him respond the way he did.”

Danford (1-0) mostly relied on his fastball while mixing in a curveball to keep hitters off balance.

“I’ve kind of just been working on staying relaxed out there,” Danford said. “Normally, if I put too much pressure on myself that’s when I don’t throw as well.

“They just preach to us to come in and throw strikes. That’s kind of what I was thinking coming in there. Just trust my arm, and it worked out.”

Marietta added four big insurance runs in the bottom of the seventh.

With one out and runners at first and second, Will Keefe hit a pinch-hit, two-run double down the left-field line to make it 5-1. It was Keefe’s sixth hit in 11 at-bats this season. Drew Holderbach followed and blasted a two-run home run over the left field fence to make it 7-1. It was Holderbach’s second homer of the spring.

Brown got a no-decision after working 5 1/3 innings. He had some command issues, walking four and striking out eight while allowing five hits and one run.

Nicholas Michel got the loss for John Carroll, which fell to 8-5. Michel pitched 2 1/3 innings in relief of starter Matthew Aukerman, who worked 3 1/3 innings with four walks and one strikeout.

In game one, Gino Sabatine threw 6 1/3 strong innings to earn his fourth win of the season. He allowed five hits and two earned runs while issuing no walks and fanning six.

Sam Mathews entered the game with one out in the sixth, pitching 2 2/3 shutout innings with four punchouts to earn his second save of the spring.

Damian Yenzi was 2 for 3 with a triple, a run-batted-in and two runs scored. Turner Hill tripled, singled and scored two runs while Boyd was 2 for 3 with an RBI and a run. Cottom also drove in a run for the Pioneers.

Mitchell Midea took the loss for the Blue Streaks, tossing 4 2/3 innings with four hits, four runs, three walks and four strikeouts. Sam Heaton was 2 for 4 with a double for the visitors while Justin Hanley, Henry Haracz and Victor Glaser all doubled as well.

On his team’s strong pitching performance, Brewer said “Gino was really good. Nick just couldn’t command his curveball. He couldn’t throw his curveball for a strike, so he’s down in the count a little bit. Our key — we don’t have a power arm, so we’ve got to get strike one. I thought Gino was pretty good with that. I didn’t think Nick was as good as he’s been, but he ended up putting up zeroes.”

In the field, the Pioneers made just one error in 18 innings of play.

“It’s pitching and defense, man,” Brewer said. “Pitching and defense is going to win you a lot of games.”

Marietta was scheduled to travel to University Heights Saturday for another doubleheader against JCU, but due to the impending forecast, the twinbill will be played again at Pioneer Park. Game one is set to start at 1 p.m.

“We haven’t played the upper echelon (OAC) teams until today,” Brewer noted. “I think John Carroll’s going to be a conference tournament team. They’re pretty good. Regardless of who we’ve played, we have played well and that’s the most important thing. Who’s in the opposite dugout doesn’t mean a whole lot. We’ve got to worry about ourselves and execute our philosophies. If we do that, everything else will take care of itself.”

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