Look out Chillicothe, here come the Gators.
The Allegheny College baseball team worked its way into the North Coast Athletic Conference championship tournament by defeating DePauw 5-3 to finish off a hard-fought three-game series Sunday at the Robertson Athletic Complex.
“Great feeling,” said Gators freshman Joe Killian. “We had a good three-game series. We would have liked to have gotten the first one. We felt that we let it slip away. (DePauw) is definitely a good team. It’s one of those things where coming out we knew everything was on the line. It as their best versus our best. We brought it (Sunday).”
The Gators are one of four teams that will advance to the double-elimination NCAC playoff tournament, which will take place at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Allegheny, now 24-14, will take on West Division winner Denison (25-14), which won all three of its crossover games against Kenyon this weekend. Game time is 8 p.m. on Thursday.
Also advancing is Wooster (29-10), which went 3-0 over Ohio Wesleyan this weekend; and Oberlin (21-19), which advanced to its first-ever conference tournament after taking two of three from Wittenberg.
“We were upset, we kind of let the first game slip away (on Saturday),” said Allegheny head coach Kelly Swiney. “We had to play good baseball (on Sunday). I knew this group could do it. They’ve done it all year in these close games. I’m excited. The goal all year was to be conference champs. But there are steps. And this was a big step.”
Allegheny got through with a mix of timely hits and three solid pitching performances.
Junior Brandon Ellis got the Gators off to a good start, pitching a no-hitter through the first three innings.
In the meantime, Allegheny jumped on top of DePauw starter Jack Peck with three runs in the second.
The Gators loaded the bases on back-to-back singles by Mike Pezzone and Frank Triozzi and a fielding error that brought Ben Kirchler aboard.
Then Kyle Davis swept all the runners home with a two-out single to right center.
DePauw tightened things up with two runs in the fifth. J.B. McCallum was hit by a pitch. Paul Mpistolarides scored him with a two-out double down the right field line. Then Zach Galyean scored Mpistolarides with another double, this one to left field.
That was the last inning for Ellis on the mound. He allowed two runs on three hits through five innings, walking none and striking out three.
The score stayed 3-2 until the seventh inning when Killian gave the Gators a little more breathing room with a two-out single to right, plating Kirchler who had reached on an error.
“Those first two (run-scoring) hits were all with two outs,” said Swiney. “That’s big. We’ve lost games like that this year. And we didn’t get the hit (on Saturday), in both games. And just to have those guys come through was huge.”
Allegheny stretched the lead to 5-2 in the top of the ninth inning. Kirchler singled with one out and made it to second on a wild pitch. Then Zach Gray drove him home with a knock up the middle.
Steven Ramsdell, the Gators’ sophomore reliever, kept DePauw’s bats relatively quiet during innings six through eight. But the Tigers wouldn’t go quietly in the bottom of the ninth.
“They put up a fight,” said Swiney. “I don’t know how many games where you can go 1-2-3 in the ninth. Especially in playoff action, you’re going to get some fight.”
Ryan Allee led the inning off with a single between short and third. Then Ramsdell walked McCallum to put two aboard.
Ramsdell got the next batter, Pat Lyons, to line out to Gray at second. After that, Pezzone replaced him on the mound.
“After Steven got the first out of the inning, I felt really good going to Mike,” said Swiney. “I felt that it was a good matchup with those hitters — right-handed hitters.”
DePauw kept swinging, though. Mpistolarides plopped a single to shallow center and the bases were loaded with one out.
The Gators nearly got out of the inning unscathed when Galyean hit a come-backer to Pezzone. He got a glove on the ball, but couldn’t get control of it. He still had time to get Galyean at first, but Allee scored, making it 5-3.
“It came at me pretty quickly,” said Pezzone. “I was just trying to get a glove on it. I’m glad that it fell to my feet and I was able to make the play at first.”
DePauw still had the tying runs on base. The Tigers were warming up a pitcher to work the 10th. He would not be needed, however.
Pezzone caught Robbie Stein gazing at a third strike.
The Gators bench rushed the field, celebrating their first NCAC playoff berth in three years.
“That was awesome,” said Pezzone, who earned the save. “I’m just glad that the team got the win. That’s all that counts.”
Notes: Triozzi led Alleg-heny at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a run scored. Killian and Gray both had two hits. … For DePauw (17-23), Peck took the loss, allowed three unearned runs on five hits with one strikeout over the first two innings. Mpistolarides was the top hitter, going 3-for-4 with a double, one run scored and one RBI. Galyean, the leadoff hitter, was 2-for-5 with two RBIs.
Look out Chillicothe, here come the Gators.
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