TIFFIN – The No. 10 Heidelberg University baseball team swept a doubleheader with John Carroll University, 10-7 and 6-2. The wins vault The Berg into sole possession of first place with six conference games remaining. Nine different Student Princes knocked in runs.
Freshman Derek Hendrixson picked up his OAC-best fifth and sixth saves of the season. Joe Staab, Arneal Squibb and Adam Hershberger each had four-hit afternoons.
Heidelberg (25-5, 10-2 OAC) took a two-run lead in the first inning. With one out and two on, Derek Hug knocked a single to right to score Squibb. It was Hug's OAC-leading 43rd RBI. The next batter, Alex Grove, ramped a single off the mound and over the shortstop to drive in Steven Morse.
After not recording a hit in the first three innings, the Blue Streaks erased the Student Princes lead in the top of the fourth. John Carroll's Bobby Sabatino duffed an infield single to second before 'Berg starter Kyle Fluharty surrendered a walk. Fluharty gave up two consecutive RBI singles to push the contest back to even, 2-2.
The Blue Streaks (16-10, 8-4 OAC) pulled ahead with a three-run home run to left by Tyler Gentile. Fluharty offered up a triple off the wall in left to Mark Huddle, who scored on a single up the middle by David Crowley. The Blue Streaks scored six times in the inning to take a 6-2 lead.
But, like they have seemingly done all season long, the Berg roared back with a big inning of their own in the bottom of the frame. Grove started the rally with a one-out single through the right side. T.J. Harkness was hit by a pitch before third baseman Hershberger rapped a two-run double just inside the third base bag.
The next batter, Eric Monroe, hit a mammoth two-run home run to left field to pull the game back to even.
The Student Princes regained the lead when Squibb hit a single into left field scoring the second baseman Staab from second. Morse reached on a fielding error JCU defense, plating Squibb.
Leading 8-6, Heidelberg added insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth and sixth. In the fifth, Hershberger reached on an error and would score on a wild pitch by John Carroll reliever Tyler Ferretti. In the sixth, Staab scored on a sacrifice fly to shallow right by Morse.
JCU threatened in the eighth. Hendrixson, who relieved Fluharty in the sixth, allowed a single a double to start the inning. The freshman from Centerville showed his moxie by getting a pop out, strike out and a line out to thwart the rally.
Down 10-6, Jimmy Spagna slapped home run off of Hendrixson. It was the only run Hendrixson would surrender, as he closed out JCU.
Fluharty (5-0) picked up the win, going five innings and allowing six runs. The sophomore allowed eight hits while striking four.
In the second game, 'Berg starter Adam Manner (5-2) was superb through seven innings. The sophomore surrendered four hits and allowed two runs, one earned. Unfortunately, JCU starter Andrew Doring was a tad better. Doring held the Student Princes scoreless through six innings.
But in the bottom of the seventh, just after JCU added an insurance run, the Tricolor erupted for yet another big inning.
Hershberger started with a single and moved to second on an errant pickoff throw. Trevor Oldham followed with an RBI double to the gap in right center. Oldham moved to third on a wild pitch and Andrew Zenczak was plunked in the back by a pitch.
Doring departed and Mitch Turosky entered for the Blue Streaks. With one out, Oldham scored on a passed ball, tying the game at two. After Squibb lined out, Morse hit a bouncer to first that got by Spagna. The error allowed Zenczak to score and pushed Morse to third. Harkness, pinch-hitting, ripped a double to left center to score Morse.
"Sometimes we play better when the other team scores a couple of runs. I think it refocuses us at the plate," said Heidelberg head coach Matt Palm. "In both games, we were able to answer right back after they gained some momentum."
Similarly to the first game, JCU threatened in the eighth against Hendrixson, thanks to a lead-off double by Spagna. Hendrixson struck out the next three Blue Streaks.
In the bottom of the eighth, Heidelberg added a pair of insurance runs to take a 6-2 lead. Austin Fleming led off with a pinch-hit walk and stole second. Fleming advanced to third on a balk by JCU reliever Anthony Libertini. Oldham reached base on a walk and later stole second. With two outs, Staab blooped a single to left, which scored Fleming and Oldham.
In the night, the Blue Streaks managed a double and walk, but could not scratch a run across.
"John Carroll has a good club full of some really great players," said head coach Matt Palm. "These were a pair of tight games, but fortunately for us, we got some key hits and some timely pitching."
Heidelberg holds a one game advantage on Marietta (9-3) and a two game edge on John Carroll.
On Friday, the Student Princes travel to Wilmington to take on the last-place Quakers.
"We are focused and ready to go on Friday," said Palm. "We don't overlook anybody -- every pitch, every at bat, every game is a new opportunity for us."
Friday's doubleheader is slated for a 1 p.m. start.