Baseball Sweeps LaRoche College In Doubleheader
BY COLIN SMITH
The Yeomen snapped a 25-game losing streak with an 11-4 win against LaRoche in the first game of a doubleheader on Wednesday, May 2. Oberlin came from behind to score two runs in the final inning to take the second game, 7-6, sweeping the doubleheader. The wins improved their record to 4-33.
The Yeomen were coming off a 3-2 extra-inning loss to Thiel on Monday, April 30 that first-year Peter Wyatt described as “a heartbreaker.” The loss closed out an intense stretch of baseball in which the Yeomen played six games, losing all six.
“It was a tough week,” Head Coach Eric Lahetta said. “We played a lot of baseball, we were tired.”
The stretch began with a doubleheader on Saturday, April 28 against Denison, who entered the games with a 15-17 record. Denison was all over Oberlin in the first game, scoring 10 unanswered runs after the first inning to win 12-2. Oberlin kept it close in the second game. After three innings the score was tied at four, but Denison scored a run in each of the remaining four innings to win 8-5. Oberlin’s defense was shaky throughout the doubleheader — they committed 11 errors in the two games.
“When we don’t field well, we don’t do very well,” first-year Robert Smith said. “[The defense] is a game-by-game thing.”
On Sunday the team played two against 16-20 Penn State Behrend. In the first game Behrend led just 4-3 after three, but scored five unearned runs in the fourth to take a 9-3 lead. Oberlin came back with a run in the fifth and four in the sixth, but Behrend sealed it with a three-run seventh to win 12-8.
In the nightcap, Behrend held the Yeomen scoreless for four innings before allowing a run in the fifth. Their offense posted 14 runs off of first-year starter John Damron and junior reliever Bob Montag. It was the only time this year that Montag, who has played catcher, first and third, had pitched.
The opening game against Thiel on Monday was similar. Thiel scored nine runs off Oberlin sophomore Zach Pretzer and five more off first-year Michael Small to win 14-4.
In the second game, however, Oberlin sent Smith, the team leader in ERA, to the hill. Smith held Thiel to two runs on seven hits through seven innings, while walking only two. The Yeomen trailed 2-1, though, heading into the bottom of the seventh. With two outs and two men on, first-year Chris Bamat singled Wyatt home to tie the game and send it into extra innings.
Smith surrendered a leadoff double in the top of the eighth. Smith got the next batter to ground out, which advanced the runner to third. The following batter hit a sacrifice fly to give Thiel the lead.
Montag was hit by a pitch to open the bottom of the eighth and advanced to second on a sacrifice. He attempted to score on first-year Michael Small’s single but, in a highly disputed call, was thrown out at the plate. With two out and a runner on first, Wyatt struck out swinging to end the game.
“The ump made the call and that was the call and that’s that,” Smith said, adding that the team needs to be able to win regardless of umpires’ calls. “Once we learn how to play in [close games] we’ll win them,” he said.
Lahetta summarized the sequence of doubleheaders by saying, “It was a great learning experience and in order for us to get better as a team, we need to play games as much as possible.”
The Yeomen were afforded just one day of rest before they had to play two more.
Oberlin opened the first game against LaRoche with six runs in the first inning, highlighted by first-year B. J. Belville’s two-run double and Pretzer’s two-run single. It would prove to be all they needed, as first-year Troy DeWitt dominated LaRoche from the mound. Though he allowed four runs, he gave up only five hits and two walks. He struck out 11, increasing his team-leading strikeout total to 43, and lowered his ERA by nearly a run.
“I’ve been gradually growing better as the season’s progressed,” DeWitt said of his performance. “My ball was just moving well. Everything came together.”
DeWitt did the job on offense as well, going two for four and scoring three runs. Over the last eight games he has raised his average 33 points to .320.
“I’ve been seeing the ball good all year. Now I have my swing down,” he said of his offensive breakout.
Belville had another double and two more RBI in the game, while Pretzer went three for five with three RBI.
“Pretzer ignited us offensively,” Lahetta said. With five hits in the doubleheader Pretzer brought his season total to 41, setting a new Oberlin record and raising his team-leading average to .333.
Damron was also three for five in the game. Damron has been on an offensive tear, hitting .420 in the last eight games and raising his average to .322, second on the team.
The second game was much closer. Trailing 2-1, Oberlin scored three runs in the third, highlighted by Bamat’s two-run homer, to take a 4-2 lead. LaRoche answered in the bottom of the frame with three of their own, reclaiming the lead. Oberlin tied it in the fourth, but Wyatt, Oberlin’s starter, finally tired in the sixth and surrendered the go-ahead run.
“I would’ve like to have finished it, but my stuff was just gone,” Wyatt said. “Still, it was probably my best outing.” Wyatt surrendered six runs on seven hits and struck out seven in his six innings.
The offense picked him up in the top of the seventh, with a little help from the LaRoche defense. With DeWitt on first, Montag attempted to sacrifice him to second. La Roche committed a throwing error that allowed Montag to reach safely and DeWitt to reach third. On the same play, LaRoche threw the ball away again, bringing in DeWitt to tie the game, and advancing Montag to third. Belville then hit a grounder to the right side of the infield to bring home the go-ahead run in Montag.
With a one-run lead, Damron came on in the bottom of the seventh to close it out. He walked one and struck out one in a scoreless inning of relief to earn himself a save and Wyatt a win. “It wasn’t as sure a win as Troy’s, [but] I pitched well enough to win,” Wyatt said.
“Great things happen when you play complete ballgames,” Lahetta said of the sweep. “We pitched well, played solid defense, and made things happen on offense. It was a total team effort.”
But, as Smith said, “The year’s not over yet.”
The team will play a best-of-three tournament against Earlham on Saturday and Sunday, May 5 and 6. Oberlin is 1-1 against Earlham this year. The team will close out the season with a doubleheader against Grove City, against whom they are 0-2, on Tuesday, May 8.
The two wins against LaRoche have given the team a boost, though. “Going into these last couple games it gives us a lot of confidence,” DeWitt said.
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