***Game moved ahead one hour to noon
TIFFIN, Ohio—After snapping a three-game losing streak with a doubleheader sweep of Ohio Northern University, the Heidelberg University baseball team will challenge defending Ohio Athletic Conference and NCAA champion No. 1 Marietta College Saturday in a league doubleheader at Don Schaly Stadium in Marietta, Ohio. The first game is slated for 1 p.m. The championship of the last four OAC tournaments has featured both the Student Princes and Pioneers.
Marietta currently leads to OAC standings with a 7-1 conference record, two games ahead of Heidelberg and Muskingum University, who are tied for second place.
The Student Princes (16-11, 5-3 OAC) took two games Wednesday from ONU, with freshman righty Ryan Minteer (Venetia, Pa./Peters Township) hurling his first career shutout in the first game and senior righty Daniel Brannum (Jamestown/Greeneview) pitching a career-high 7.2 innings of relief to earn his fifth win of the season in the second game.
The doubleheader will feature five of the OAC’s top seven hitters. The Berg is led offensively by freshman first baseman Eric Monroe (Chagrin Falls/Kenston) (.400, 18 RBI, 2 HR, 13 R), senior left fielder Ross Pruitt (Elletsville, Ind./Edgewood) (.394, 23, 0, 22), and freshman designated hitter Trevor Oldham (Akron/Archbishop Hoban) (.383, 10, 0, 19), who are third, fifth and seventh, respectively in league batting average. Monroe is also ninth in slugging percentage (.543) and 10th in on-base percentage (.456). Pruitt is sixth in the OAC in RBI and 10th in runs scored, while Oldham leads the circuit in OBP (.513).
Senior shortstop Ricardo Lizcano (Toledo/Start) (.357, 33, 6, 24) leads the OAC in home runs, RBI and slugging (.694), is sixth in OBP (.467), and tied for seventh in runs scored. In addition to his school-record 32 career home runs, Lizcano also needs two triples, 18 total bases, 32 runs, 36 RBI and 56 hits to break other school career marks.
On the hill, junior right hander Tyler Fruhwirth (Beavercreek) (4.40 ERA, 27 K, 43.0 IP) and sophomore righty Chris Thomas (Canton/Perry) (5.45, 19, 36.1) have started each of the Student Princes’ OAC weekend doubleheaders. Fruhwirth is 4-2 in six starts and is third in the conference in innings pitched and tied for ninth in strikeouts. He has also pitched two of the OAC’s 29 complete games, including one shutout, and is one of just six pitchers around the league to have two or more complete games. Thomas is 2-3 in six starts and is 10th in the OAC in innings.
Senior righty Daniel Brannum (Jamestown/Greeneview) and junior righty Teddy Lowe (Fort Wayne, Ind./Carroll) have combined for 31 of 53 appearances from the bullpen. Brannum (3.12, 30, 34.2) is 5-0 with 1 save in 15 appearances and is tied for third in the OAC in wins and sixth in strikeouts. Lowe (6.45, 13, 22.1) is 3-2 in 16 outings.
In 567 career games, 13th-year head coach Matt Palm is 397-170 (.700) and is looking for three more victories to become just the fifth coach in OAC history with 400 career wins, behind only the legendary Don Schaly of Marietta College (1,442), Bob Fisher of Baldwin-Wallace College (700), Dick Fishbaugh of Otterbein University (617), and Herb Strayer of Ohio Northern University (592).
The Pioneers (20-4, 7-1 OAC) have won six straight games after sweeping Muskingum on Wednesday by a combined score of 20-4. Evan Brockmeier (.398, 23, 0, 14) and Aaron Hopper (.371, 26, 1, 22) pace the Marietta attack. Brockmeier is second in the league in hitting, while Hopper is fourth and eighth in slugging (.551). Kirby Becker (.345, 10, 0, 23) and Tim Saunders (.329, 20, 2, 31) also aid the Pioneer offense. Saunders is second in the OAC in runs scored and leads the team with 16 stolen bases.
Three pitchers in Marietta’s four-man rotation rank inside the league’s top-five in ERA. Austin Blaski (0.72, 61, 50.0) is 6-1 in seven starts with one shutout, leads the league in strikeouts, is tied for the league lead in wins, and is second in innings pitched and ERA. Brian Gasser (2.03, 43, 40.0) is 5-1 in seven starts, is fourth in the OAC in strikeouts and ERA and is tied for fifth in innings pitched. Mike Mahaffey (3.11, 35, 37.2) is 4-1 in six starts and Mike Mulvey (0.67, 20, 27.0) is 2-0 in seven appearances, including three starts and leads the circuit in ERA.
Logan Lewis (2.21, 21, 20.1) anchors the Pioneer bullpen and is 3-0 with one save in 11 appearances.
Marietta took five of six games played between the two teams last season, with four wins coming in postseason play, but the Berg and the Pioneers have split the regular season series in each of the last two seasons.
Following Saturday’s doubleheader, the Berg briefly returns to Tiffin to host OAC foe Baldwin-Wallace College in a doubleheader Wednesday, April 17 before visiting the University of Mount Union on Saturday, April 21.