ADRIAN, Mich. – Junior Michael Wielansky accomplished an ultra-rare feat, the fourth-ranked College of Wooster baseball team's defense backed junior starting pitcher Chandler Dippman's complete-game effort up with a pair of double plays, and the Fighting Scots went on to win their 2018 Mideast Regional opener 4-2 over Wabash College on Thursday afternoon at Nicolay Field less than a week after the Little Giants captured the 2018 North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament over the Black & Gold.
"I was real pleased," said head coach Tim Pettorini. "We wanted to jump on them early, and we felt like we did that. Getting two in the first I think was really key. I think it helped our guys to relax a little bit. Then we tacked on after that. It was good. I wished we had sustained it a little bit better going forward. Give their guy credit. We had him on the ropes early, and he battled extremely hard and competed out there."
With the win, Wooster (37-8) plays Shenandoah University (35-10) at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Friday. The Hornets were 3-2 winners over Marietta College earlier on Thursday.
The nation's top-rated defense in terms of fielding percentage took charge early, as sophomore Harry Witwer-Dukes flashed the leather at third base in the top of the first inning to snag a liner on a hit-and-run play, and Wabash's (28-16) Jared Wolfe wound up in no-man's land for the second out of the inning.
In the bottom of the inning, Wooster was in business immediately when junior Jacob Stuursma was plunked by Little Giants' starter Bryan Roberts. Two batter later, Wielansky reached on an error, which put runners at second and third base. Sophomore Dan Harwood knocked both Stuursma and Wielansky in with a two-run rope out to right field.
Several milestones took place on Harwood's two-run single, most notably, Wielansky's run, which marked the 200th of his career. Wielansky's the second known player in Div. III history to have at least 200 hits, 200 runs, and 150 RBI before the end of his junior year. Additionally, the run marked Wielansky's 70th of the season, and it's just the fifth time a Wooster student-athlete has touched home 70 times in a season, and the first since alumnus Sean Karpen scored 77 times during Wooster's run to the 2009 national championship game.
"It's an incredible accomplishment for me," said Wielansky on joining 2000 Southwestern University (Texas) alumnus Matt Gelotti as the only known players in Div. III history to accomplish the feat. "I got to give a lot of that to my teammates also. I try and get on base, hit the ball hard, do whatever I can, but without them behind me, protecting me, knocking me in, I don't think I'd nearly have any of those numbers. It's a real special accomplishment. I don't take anything for granted, but definitely give a lot of credit to my teammates as well."
The two runs that scored on Harwood's base knock upped his RBI count to 70 on the year, and it's the sixth time a Wooster slugger's reached the 70-RBI plateau, and first since alumnus Matt Groezinger tallied 73 in 2009.
Tyler Downing's RBI double in the top of the second inning put Wabash on the board, but Wooster answered right back in the bottom of the frame to make it a 3-1 game. In that inning, Wielansky's two-out RBI single knocked in Witwer-Dukes, who reached via a one-out single earlier in the frame.
An inning later, Wooster tacked on another run to up its lead to 4-1. Sophomore Nick Strausbaugh delivered the RBI knock, which sent senior Drew Tornow scurrying home after the starting right fielder drew a one-out walk and advanced to second on a fielder's choice.
Wooster's defense backed up Dippman prior to the Scots upping the lead to three. In the top of the third inning, Witwer-Dukes started an inning-ending around-the-horn double play that erased a one-out Little Giant single.
In the sixth inning, Wielansky started a 6-4-3 double play to wipe out a leadoff single, but Wabash rallied to chalk out a run, thanks in large part to Jackson Blevins' hustle. Blevins laced a two-out single up the middle, stole second, and came in to score on Matthew Annee's single.
Wabash threatened again in the eighth, and had two runners on when Stuursma ranged to his left to gather in a ground out for the final out of the inning.
The Little Giants threatened again in the ninth, but Dippman was able to cover first base in time on a game-ending ground out.
Dippman, who improved to 8-0 on the year, allowed two runs on 10 hits and struck out a career-best six Little Giants.
"Obviously, our guy was pretty good on the mound," said Pettorini. "Chandler's been phenomenal for us all season long, but especially his last several starts have been really good. It's been a who's-who of the best teams in the region, and he's gone out and beaten them all. Some people were second-guessing us I'm sure for pitching him in the first game when we've got (senior) Nanak Saran standing over there. Chandler stepped up big like I knew he would, so I'm real pleased."
Wooster's bottom of the order – sophomore Nick Strausbaugh and Witwer-Dukes – set the table for the Scots with four of the team's 10 hits.
Annee led the way for Wabash with a 2-for-4 day with a run and RBI. Roberts fell to 7-4 on the season after allowing four runs (three earned) on 10 hits in 6 2/3 innings.