May 11, 2022
Photo by Kerry Patrick Marietta College first baseman Drew Holderbach fields a pickoff throw during a college baseball game against Denison earlier this season at Pioneer Park.
MARIETTA — As things are seemingly getting back to normal, it seems right that the Ohio Athletic Conference Baseball Championship should get back to normal, as well.
After playing a best-of-three championship series last year, the format returns to a four-team double elimination tournament this season.
Something else that seems so right is having this tournament at Pioneer Park, the place where so many championships have been decided before.
This Thursday, Marietta College, which finished with a 15-3 conference record to earn the top seed, will host No. 4 seed Mount Union (22-17, 11-7) with a first pitch scheduled at 1 p.m. No. 2 seed Otterbein (27-12, 14-4) and No. 3 seed Baldwin Wallace (30-9, 12-5) will play the other first round game following at 4 p.m.
The Pioneers are 35-5 on the season.
Marietta closed out conference play getting swept by Otterbein, breaking a 21-game winning streak, but they had already earned the top spot in the conference the weekend prior with a doubleheader sweep of Baldwin Wallace. This marks the 37th time in school history that Marietta has hosted the OAC Tournament. Last year, the Etta Express defeated Mount Union 2-0 in a best-of-three championship series to claim the conference championship.
Marietta had a solid year at Don & Sue Schaly Field at Pioneer Park, finishing with a 13-3 record.
Their only loss outside of the sweep in the season finale was a tough 3-2 loss to Ohio Northern in late March. Marietta did take two from Mount Union in the home confines– 4-1 and 6-5 –on April 20.
Marietta boasts the top four hitters in the conference. Turner Hill led the OAC with a .438 batting average, collecting a season high 70 hits on the campaign and driving in 42 runs. Drew Holderbach finished the regular season with a .420 batting average. Holderbach belted five home runs, drove in 45 runs, and led the conference with a .527 on-base percentage. Damien Yenzi may be one of the hottest hitters entering the tournament. Yenzi sports a .411 batting average and better yet, led the conference with a .748 slugging percentage. Over half of his hits went for extra bases this season (23 doubles, a triple, and 10 home runs). Zach Boyd currently has a .410 batting average and is tied for the team lead in triples with five.
Marietta’s pitching staff features the top starter and the top finisher in the conference. Trent Valentine has been solid all season, finishing with the best earned run average of any starter in the conference at 1.75. Valentine won 11 of his 12 starts and was tied for 8th in the Ohio Athletic Conference with 59 strikeouts. Sam Mathews also had 59 strikeouts on the year in his 23 appearances, all in relief. Mathews led the conference with 12 saves, and he led all pitchers with a 1.46 earned run average.
The Pioneers could face senior Thomas Gallant, Mount Union’s ace of the staff. Gallant is 7-2 with a 3.78 ERA. Gallant led the OAC in strikeouts with 75. The Pioneers did not face him in the regular season. Another option is senior Dwayne Sumler, who is 4-2 with a 3.68 ERA and 73 strikeouts. Marietta scored five runs off Sumler in just two innings of work in their earlier matchup.
The Purple Raiders, making their second consecutive OAC Tournament appearance, are led by senior Zack Mazza, who enters the postseason hitting .356 with eight home runs and 25 runs batted in. Another offensive threat is senior Nate Duliba, who is hitting .409 with 32 RBI’s and 12 stolen bases.
Otterbein clinched the second seed in the tournament by way of their doubleheader sweep over the Pioneers. Senior Brayden Carter has come up big for the Cardinals at the plate. He leads the team with a .396 batting average and has also provided three home runs and 41 runs batted in. Senior outfielder Sam Edgell leads the team with seven home runs and has driven in 40 runs. He is also a real threat on the base paths with 14 stolen bases.
Seniors Nicky Zorne and Logan Weber have been Coach George Powell’s main starters this spring. Zorne is 5-1 with a 3.96 ERA and 44 k’s. Weber is 6-2 with 31 strikeouts on the season. Fellow senior Travis Engard, the winning pitcher in game one against Marietta last weekend, has worked his way back from an injury and is 5-0 with a 2.87 ERA in six starts.
Baldwin Wallace closed the conference season with 6-2 victory over John Carroll. The Yellow Jackets split their doubleheader with Otterbein on April 15, losing the first game 15-9 but coming back for a 21-7 rout in game two. BW was 13-3 at home this season and 17-6 on the road and at neutral sites.
Coach Brian Harrison’s team has a batting average of .341, good for third in the conference. Junior Luke Vonderhaar led the conference with 14 home runs and 57 runs batted in, while sporting a .355 batting average and a .701 slugging percentage. Senior shortstop Alex Ludwick hit .383 for the season and supplied eight home runs while driving in 40 runs.
The Yellow Jackets will turn to starters junior Drew Wilson and senior Dawson Gabe on the bump. Wilson is 6-1 with a 3.62 ERA and 40 strikeouts, while Gabe is 3-3 with a 3.59 ERA and 66 strikeouts.
Tickets are on sale via Marietta College’s athletics website. Game tickets cost $7 while all-day passes are $12. OAC students get in free with I.D.
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May 11, 2022