Wheaton (Ill.) rallies to earn 5-3 victory in extra innings thriller at Illinois Wesleyan

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Bloomington, Ill. - The Wheaton baseball team rallied from an early deficit and tight-rope walked out of danger late to claim a 5-3 victory in 11 innings in the first game of a crucial CCIW series with Illinois Wesleyan. Tasked with extended innings, the Thunder bullpen threw 9.1 innings of scoreless relief to hold the Titans to just seven hits after the second inning. With the victory, Wheaton is now 22-15 on the year and 12-9 in CCIW play. Illinois Wesleyan falls to 20-16 overall and 13-9 in the CCIW. The Thunder and Titans will conclude their series on Saturday with a 1 pm doubleheader at Lee Pfund Stadium.

Wheaton scored its five runs on 11 hits while Illinois Wesleyan scored three runs on 13 hits. Both teams made two defensive errors. Kyle Ferraro came on with two outs in the second inning and provided 6.1 innings of scoreless relief, scattering four hits and striking out seven. Nick Johnson earned the win with three innings of scoreless relief, allowing three hits.

Illinois Wesleyan came rolling out of the gates, tagging Wheaton starter Christian Bolhuis for two runs in the bottom of the first inning and another in the bottom of the second inning to take a 3-0 lead. Wheaton responded in the top of the fourth inning, loading the bases with no outs on two hits and a walk. After Jacob Zeller scored on a double play, Ben Brittain's line drive single to center plated Peter Newman to cut the Titans lead to 3-2. Wheaton would threaten again in the top of the sixth inning, putting runners on the corners with one out before another double play halted the rally.

Consecutive walks to start the top of the eighth inning started a Wheaton rally that saw the Thunder chase Titan starter Sean Coonan after seven-plus innings of work. Newman than pounced on reliever Nick Huskisson for an RBI single to center, bringing in Nick Mailman with the games tying run. Despite having runners on first and second with no outs, Wheaton could not take the lead, setting the stage for an exciting finish. Ferraro worked around a one-out double in bottom of the eighth to deliver the game into the ninth inning with the game still tied 3-3.

26902 After Wheaton went down in order in the top of the ninth, Illinois Wesleyan started the bottom of the ninth with a double and a single through the right side to put runners on the corners. Following an intentional walk to load the bases with no outs, Titan leadoff man Jake Stewart lifted a high fly ball that twisted into foul territory down the right field line. Wheaton right fielder Johnny Peltz (PICTURED RIGHT) closed on the ball to make a sprinting catch, spun and fired a one-hop throw to Andrew Zuber who tagged out the potential winning run at the plate for the second out of the inning. After another walk was issued to once again load the bases, Nick Johnson forced Pat Mollo to fly out to second base to wiggle out of the inning and force extra innings.

The Titans rallied again in the bottom of the tenth inning with a one-out single and an error to put runners on first and second, but Johnson earned a strike out before John McKenna snared a twisting line drive with a diving catch in the hole at shortstop to send the game into the 11th inning. Brett Albaugh and Peltz started the inning with consecutive singles to put runners on the corners with no outs. Brittain followed with a hard ground ball that deflected off the pitcher and resulted in a fielder's choice with Peltz being retired at second but Albaugh scoring, giving Wheaton a 4-3 advantage. After a two-out Titan error extended the inning, Brittain took advantage of a botched rundown to score an insurance run to put Wheaton ahead 5-3. Johnson would allow a two-out infield single before closing the door on a 5-3 victory.

Brett Albaugh and Peter Newman paced the Thunder offensive attack with three hits apiece. Ben Brittain drove in two runs with Newman providing the third Wheaton RBI.

Wheaton's victory brings the Thunder into a second place tie with the Titans in the CCIW standings heading into the final weekend of conference action with both teams chasing North Central by just one game in the conference standings.