WOOSTER, Ohio – All nine starters recorded a hit, and the 10th-ranked College of Wooster baseball team made a series of fine defensive plays during Thursday afternoon's 7-3 win over Muskingum University at Art Murray Field.
Wooster's (10-4) defense was put to the test from the get-go, with Muskingum (6-14) leadoff batter Brett Carson lifting a fly ball down the left field line. Sophomore Noah Clement sprinted over just in time to record the diving catch. Wooster's defensive theme continued for the final out of the inning, when junior starter Christian Julius picked off Matt Stewart.
Muskingum continued to apply pressure in the second, but Wooster was up to the task, with senior Chandler Dippman starting an inning-ending 5-3 double play. An inning later, junior Dan Gail mowed down a would-be base stealer, while in the fourth, it was sophomore Jack Jones' turn to squash a key scoring threat. The submariner reeled in a tapper to the mound, and in doing so, stranded a pair of Fighting Muskies.
Wooster's ability to manufacture runs in a multitude of ways also factored heavily into Thursday's win. In the third inning, senior Jacob Stuursma swiped second with two outs, and that proved to be key, as junior Dan Harwood followed with a RBI single up the middle that made it 2-0.
Two thefts were reported at Art Murray in the fourth inning in the form of Clement stealing third base and junior Nick Strausbaugh following with a steal of second. Stuursma's RBI ground out tacked on the Scots' fourth run of the contest, while earlier in the inning, Wooster upped the ante to 3-0 with first-year Ben Gbur's sacrifice fly.
Junior Harry Witwer-Dukes logged Wooster's fourth of five stolen bases in the fifth inning, and he later scored on Gail's ground out.
"We've got some guys with some speed, so the stolen bases really helped us," summed up Wooster skipper Tim Pettorini. "There were a couple of key at bats too. Dan hit into a double play, but didn't strike out. He moved the ball, and we got a run. Jacob moved the ball, and we got a run. That's so key; just don't give away strikeouts."
Muskingum kept nibbling and was within three after Michael Pagano's leadoff homer made it a 5-2 game in the eighth, but senior Wyatt Linde had the Fighting Muskies fishing at his off-speed offerings to the tune of a pair of strikeouts.
Dippman laced a two-out single up the middle in the eighth to spark a rally, during which Wooster tacked on a pair of insurance runs. The Scots' third baseman swiped second, moved up to third when Pagano's throw squirted into the outfield, and scored on Witwer-Dukes' well-placed single. Harwood kept the rally going with a single to left, with Witwer-Dukes' alertness leading to the final run when Marc Ibarra's throw from the outfield rolled by Sam Pinckert.
Senior Garrett Crum led the Scots with three hits, while Witwer-Dukes upped his hitting streak to 11 games after a 1-for-4 afternoon that also included a game-high two runs and a RBI.
Julius improved to 3-0 on the bump. The junior's "staff day" start consisted of 3 2/3 innings of three-hit, shutout baseball.
"Overall, I was pleased," said Pettorini. "Christian battled. He wasn't great early, but I thought he really made some pitches when he had to, and we were pretty good defensively behind him. Evan (Faxon) too. He's been down for probably two weeks, so to get him out there, and I thought he was very effective. The whole secret for us is throwing strikes and getting it in there. Wyatt came in there in a tough situation."
Carson matched Crum with three hits to lead Muskingum's offense, while Pagano finished 2-for-4.
Josh Bigrigg fell to 2-4 after allowing one run on three hits in two innings.
Next, Wooster (2-0 North Coast Athletic Conference) hosts Ohio Wesleyan University (8-10, 1-1 NCAC) at noon on Saturday.