ADRIAN, Mich. – The fourth-ranked College of Wooster baseball team raced out of the gate with a six-run first inning, and the Fighting Scots never took the foot off the gas en route to a 17-4 win over host and No. 25 Adrian College, and in doing so, the Black and Gold punched their ticket to the championship round of the 2018 NCAA Div. III Mideast Regional on Saturday evening at Nicolay Field.
"That was unexpected to say the least," said head coach Tim Pettorini on the blowout score. "We were very fortunate. We jumped on them early, and I thought our guys had a great approach at home plate. I thought our guys were up there really hacking and really aggressive. By the same token, I thought Brian gave us a great outing on the mound. I couldn't be happier. We put ourselves in a great position with this today, and hopefully, we'll get the job done tomorrow."
Wooster (39-8), in the regional championship for the first time since 2009, now will wait-and-see who it will face and when the championship round will begin. As of now, the first game of the championship round is slated for an approximate start time of 6 p.m. on Sunday with the if-necessary game to be held on Monday. Ithaca College (30-16) and Wabash College (30-16) are set to meet in Sunday's first elimination game at noon with the winner booking a date with Adrian (35-11) at approximately 3 p.m. Should Ithaca or Wabash win twice tomorrow, the championship round is unable to begin until Monday due to NCAA policies prohibiting teams from playing three times in a day.
Wooster's offense set the tone from the get-go with junior Jacob Stuursma and senior Jake Fling drawing back-to-back walks in the bottom of the first inning. Junior Michael Wielansky drove in the game's first run with a single through the left side, and Adrian's defense started to come unglued from there with a throwing error from left fielder Gunner Rainey advancing two Scots into scoring position.
Fling's aggressiveness led to a 2-0 lead, as the Scots' centerfielder was able to get in under a tag by Bulldog catcher Frank Resto, and in doing so, dislodged the baseball. Wielansky sped home on a second fielder's choice in the inning that made it 3-0.
Sophomore Dan Gail upped the ante to 5-0 with a two-run base knock, and junior Chandler Dippman capped the scoring plays in the inning with a sacrifice fly.
Adrian went to work in the top of the second inning, and the Bulldogs scored their first run of the game courtesy of a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jordan Torrento. The hosts chipped away in the third inning thanks to a RBI single by Dugan Darnell that made it a 6-2 ball game.
In the bottom of the inning, Fling drew a two-out walk and moved into scoring position via a stolen base. That set the stage for Wielansky, but prior to his base knock, the junior sensation gave the Scots a big scare after getting hit on the wrist with a pitch that was ruled a foul ball. Wielansky shook off the stinger and roped his 75th hit of the season into left field to knock in Fling.
Notable, Wielansky's piece marked the 16th 75-hit season in program history, and he joined W Association Hall of Famers Matt Miller and Trevor Urban as the lone Scot greats to have multiple 75-hits season.
Junior starting pitcher Brian Murray was dialed in from there as Adrian's hitters in the fourth inning watched a trio of 1-2 offerings zoom past for called third strikes. Murray hung a fourth straight "K" backwards on the scorecard to start the fifth inning.
In between Murray's third- and fourth-straight punch outs, Wooster hung five more runs on the scoreboard. Senior Drew Tornow started the fourth-inning scoring spree with a leadoff single and Gail took a pitch in the back before junior Harrison Walls singled through the left side to load the bases. Dippman reached on an error with the first two runs of the frame coming in the score on the play. Next, Walls scored on Wielansky's fielder's choice, and Dippman scooted in behind on the Bulldogs' fourth of six errors in the contest. Sophomore Dan Harwood laced a sharp single into left field to plate the final run of the inning.
Two innings later, Wooster struck for a second five-run inning. Fling and Wielansky laced back-to-back singles to prime the offense, and Wooster's common theme of loading the bases continued after Harwood was clipped with a 1-1 offering. Crum plated the first run with a bases-loaded walk, and Tornow cleared the bases with his 16th career three-bagger. Gail closed out the scoring in the inning with a sacrifice fly that knocked in Tornow.
Notable, Fling logged a pair of milestones in the contest. His run in the sixth inning marked the 216th of the standout's career, a total 16th in Div. III and fifth in program history. Of the now 17 players in Div. III history with at least 215 runs, six are from Wooster. Later in the game, the four-year staple in centerfield moved into the top-five all-time in Div. III at bats
Wielansky led the way offensively with a 3-for-5 showing with three RBI and two runs scored. Murray improved to 6-2 on the year. The right-hander allowing two runs (one earned) on five hits in six innings while striking out seven.
Defensively, Wooster's corner infielders stole the show with Crum lunging for a liner early in the game and sophomore Harry Witwer-Dukes laid out for a grounder, and delivered a strong throw to Crum to end the eighth inning.
Gunnery Rainey logged four hits on the night to lead the way for Adrian.