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Late-inning rally falls short as DU splits at Witt

Tanner Johnson  |  Photo by Jason Miller
Tanner Johnson | Photo by Jason Miller

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio -- Combining for 39 total runs and seven long balls for the series, Denison baseball traveled to Springfield, Ohio on Saturday afternoon where they split their North Coast Athletic Conference opening doubleheader with Wittenberg University, winning game one 15-11, and losing game two in extra innings, 7-6.

To start the day off, a game that totaled 26 runs was dominated by pitching during the first four innings of play. DU's Perley Provost and Wittenberg's Jace Barga took control in the first four frames, combining to allow only one run on eight hits and record seven strikeouts.

Leading 1-0 as they entered the top of the fifth, the Big Red tacked on four more runs beginning with a single out to left from Jack Blanchard that scored Nick Pettigrew, and then Joseph Maydwell who crossed the plate following an error by the left fielder.

After Sam Frazen was intentionally walked in the next at-bat, Will Krushena stepped up and hit an RBI single to left, scoring Johnson to put DU on top, 4-0. Another run was added after Brian McAuliffe grounded out to second and scored Blanchard to give Denison a 5-0 lead entering the home half of the inning.

Headlined by an RBI double for Matt Baker and a two-RBI single from Tim Bates, the Tigers left the fifth tied at 5-5. They added another run in the bottom of the sixth off an RBI single from Patrick Kenny to take a 6-5 lead after six innings played.

In the seventh, the DU offense was cranked up with runners on second and third and nobody out to start the inning. Krushena then totaled his second and third RBI's of the game off a double to center, and two batters later, senior Noah Hahn plated Krushena with a single to right field.

With the bases loaded and one out, Maydwell moved everyone up a base on a single to left, scoring Grady Paine to take a 9-6 lead. In the next at-bat, Johnson cleared the bases with a grand slam home run to give the Big Red a seven-run advantage, 13-6, entering the bottom of the seventh.

Wittenberg refused to go away in the home half of the inning, thanks to an RBI single to left from Baker and three-run home run from Kenny to cut the Tiger deficit to 13-11 entering the eighth.

Following an RBI single from Pettigrew in the top of the inning, Mikey Rivera entered the game in relief and worked out of a bases-loaded jam to send Denison to the final frame with a 14-11 lead.

It was the top of the ninth where Johnson continued his big day, adding his second home run of the game to increase the lead to 15-11. Rivera took care of the Tigers in the bottom of the inning, recording two strikeouts and the save as the Big Red opened conference play with a win.

Johnson finished the game going 3-for-6 with two home runs and five RBI's. Krushena didn't finish too far behind as he went 2-for-6 with three runs batted in, while Blanchard, Frazen, Hahn, Pettigrew, and Maydwell each tallied two runs scored.

In game two, the excitement continued as junior Danny Brackman carried the Big Red in the early innings. In five and two-thirds innings of work, Brackman allowed one run on three hits and recorded six strikeouts.

Taking a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth, Brackman struck out the first two batters of the inning before giving up a two-out single to Ryan Probst. After Taylor Perrett came out of the DU bullpen, a single from Kenny allowed Probst to score on an error by the centerfielder, and in the next at-bat, Bates launched a two-run homer to put Wittenberg in front, 3-1.

The score stayed the same until the top of the ninth when Denison walked in a run and then Hahn took the lead for the Big Red, 4-3, with a single to right that plated Pettigrew and Anthony Ruggieri.

Going for his second save of the day, Rivera entered the game for DU. Following two quick outs by Rivera, Jack Hollinshead doubled down the right-field line and Chase Carpenter brought him home with an RBI single. The game would enter extra innings tied at 4-4.

In the top of the 10th, the Big Red stayed on the offensive attack with a two-run home run by Krushena to put Denison ahead, 6-4.

The game seemed all but over with two outs in the bottom of the 10th, but with runners at the corners, Jack Siefert hit a walk-off three-run home run to end the game and split the doubleheader.

Totaling a 2-for-5 performance, Krushena finished the game with two RBI's and two runs scored. Frazen also finished 2-for-5 with one run scored.

The Big Red will return home on Wednesday, April 4 for an NCAC doubleheader with DePauw University set to begin at 1:30 p.m.