WASHINGTON, Penn. – Baseball can be a cruel game sometimes. In a game where Heidelberg out-hit La Roche 12-7, free passes by the Student Princes ended up costly, as they fell 6-5 to conclude their run through the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Tournament. La Roche struck for four runs in the seventh while Heidelberg was unable to complete a rally in the eighth to tie the game. The Student Princes conclude their season 33-14.
After the start of the game was delayed 1 hour and 28 minutes due to rain, Heidelberg struck quickly to take the lead. T.J. Harkness led off the game with a double and came around to score later in the inning for the 1-0 lead.
Starting pitcher Steve Huber kept La Roche off the board in the first, allowing the Berg to add on to their lead in the second inning when Joey Rydzewski came through with a two-out RBI double down the left field line to make it a 2-0 advantage.
In the third inning for La Roche, they were able to score their first run of the game without a hit after taking advantage of two walks and a wild pitch in the inning.
Heidelberg responded in the fourth, however, when Evan Long grounded out to second base to score Steven Morse, who doubled earlier in the inning.
The Redhawks took advantage of two more walks in the fourth inning with their first hit of the game to score one, but Adam Manner then came in relief of Huber to get out of the jam, keeping the score 3-2 in favor of the Student Princes.
That score held until the sixth inning when Rydzewski recorded another two-out RBI, this time hitting a single to shortstop to make it a two-run lead.
Manner cruised on the mound until La Roche came to bat in the bottom of the seventh. After a leadoff triple, the Redhawks gathered the momentum and scored four runs in the inning, including a two-out, two run single to give them the 6-4 lead over the Berg.
The Student Princes did not go down without a fight, as they were able to load the bases with no outs in the top of the 8th. Rydzewski picked up his third RBI of the game with a groundout to second, leaving runners at second and third with just one away. La Roche starter Tyler Ferguson, who threw 153 pitches against the Berg on Wednesday, was able to work out the jam and recorded the final two outs of the inning with Heidelberg still trailing by one.
Derek Hendrixson, who came on to relieve manner in the seventh, sat down the Redhawks in order in the bottom of the 8th, bringing the Berg back to bat with just three outs left to work with.
Heidelberg was unable to get anything going in the ninth as they were retired in order to conclude the game and the season for the Student Princes.
Manner (8-1) took the loss, his first of the season.
Grove ended his outstanding Heidelberg career with a 4-for-4 day at the plate, scoring two runs in the ballgame. Rydzewski led the team with three runs driven in.
Head coach Chad Fitzgerald on the game: "We battled. We did the best we could...obviously it didn't end up the way that we wanted. One big inning. We've got a great group of seniors...it's a tough way to go out. I thought all our guys on the mound gave us a chance to win today and get into the next game. It's just the game of baseball sometimes."
Fitzgerald on Manner's pitching on short rest: "I can't say enough about his passion. It was an unbelievable effort on his part."
Freshman Joey Rydzewski on his hitting against La Roche starter Tyler Ferguson: "I just picked up the ball well. My approached stayed the same every time...just take the ball the other way."
Rydzewski on his experience at the Regionals with his teammates: "This was a great experience. I want to thank the all the seniors for being there with me. I'm going to miss them a lot."
Senior Alex Grove on his four years at Heidelberg as a member of the baseball program: "I love this school, I love this team. I have eight guys, eight other seniors out there that are my brothers. And, you know, sometimes in life you don't always get your way, but if there's one thing this program has taught me, it's how you handle adversity. Obviously it's disappointing, but I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything. Obviously I'd like to win that game, but I couldn't have asked for a better school, better coaches, better teammates, and better friends."
Fitzgerald on the senior class: "All these guys came in as freshman the year after the World Series year, so the history of the program's obviously there. These guys had it a little rough at first. They were still talented when they got here, but with a 20-20 year three years ago, they weren't satisfied with that. They understood that we needed to get better as a team and as a program to get back to that level where we needed to be. They're all-around great people. Not just baseball players, but off the field they're great with their teammates. I'm going to miss them a lot."
SEASON RECORDS BROKEN
After his 1.1 scoreless innings pitched today, Hendrixson ended his season with a 1.15 ERA in 78.1 innings, which set a new school record for ERA in a season.
Hendrixson also tied the school record for winning percentage as a pitcher with at least seven decisions, ending the year 7-0 on the mound.