For the second time in four years, the Big Red will be one of four teams in the North Coast Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio. Denison will join Wooster, Allegheny and Oberlin at VA Memorial Stadium for the fourth-annual NCAC Tournament. The double-elimination tournament is scheduled to begin on Thursday, May 9 and continue through Friday, May 10.
The Big Red secured its spot in the four-team field with a three-game sweep of Kenyon College in last weekend's NCAC Crossover Series. Trailing 6-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning of game one, DU plated six runs to take its first lead of the day. The Lords answered with two runs in the ninth to force extra innings. With the bases loaded and one out in the 11th, senior Tim Duxbury delivered a base hit to right center that scored sophomore Nick Marsit and secured the DU victory. In addition to logging the game-winning hit, Duxbury also picked up the win on the mound after tossing two scoreless innings in relief.
In game two, early offense backed the stellar pitching performance by junior hurler Connor Murphy. Despite pitching 2.1 innings in game one, Murphy got the start in the nightcap. The junior scattered eight hits and surrendered just two runs to earn the complete-game victory. On the day, Murphy (4-5) tossed 11.1 innings and threw 103 or his 135 pitches for strikes. For his efforts on Saturday, he was named NCAC Pitcher of the Week.
The Big Red (25-14) offense is led by the quartet of seniors Kyle Clemmenson and Danny Kraus, and sophomores Charlie Apfelbach and Ryan Mulligan. Clemmenson has reached base successfully in all 32 games since returning from spring break. During that stretch, the senior boasts a .417 batting average and a 1.158 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). On the year, he ranks second in the NCAC in home runs (5), RBIs (43) and total bases (85), third in runs (42) and slugging percentage (.594), and fourth in hits (55), doubles (15) and on-base percentage (.477). Kraus carries a .325 average on the year with a conference-leading six triples. The senior is also third in the league run scored (42) and total bases (82), and fourth in doubles (15).
Apfelbach will carry his school-record 26-game hitting streak into this week's NCAC Tournament. The sophomore outfielder boasts a .360 average with a team-leading 16 stolen bases, which ranks fourth in the NCAC. During his current hitting streak, Apfelbach has a .429 average and a 1.045 OPS. He's also swiped 11 bases, logged nine extra-base hits and scored 28 times. Mulligan is hitting .333 with nine extra-base hits, 33 RBIs and 24 runs scored on the season.
The DU pitching staff is led by former NCAC Pitcher of the Week Kyle Colgain and Duxbury. Colgain (4-3) enters the conference tournament with a 2.86 ERA, a team-best 42 strikeouts and a .248 average against. He's started 10 of 13 appearances and tossed one complete game. Duxbury leads the team in both wins (6) and saves (3). The senior's win total ranks second in the conference, and his save mark is fourth-best. Murphy is also finding his groove at the right time. The reigning NCAC Pitcher of the Week boasts a 4-2 record with 3.18 ERA in his last eight appearances. Over that stretch, he's also tossed three complete-game performances and struck out 21 batters in 39.2 innings.
The Gators (24-14) secured their spot in the postseason with an NCAC Crossover Series victory over DePauw last weekend. Allegheny rebounded from a game-one loss to win the next two contests and punch their ticket to Chillicothe. Kyle Davis leads the Allegheny offense with a .381 batting average and 10 doubles. He's also scored 25 times and drove in 13 runs. Zach Gray and Mike Kastelic have both swiped 10 bases, while Gray also has a team-best 31 RBIs. On the hill, Brandon Ellis boasts a 6-2 record and a 4.00 ERA in 45 innings. Steven Ramsdell (5-2) leads the staff with a 3.20 ERA and two shutouts, while Eric Brandt is 5-0 with 35 Ks in 63 innings.
Game one on Thursday will feature Wooster (29-10) and Oberlin (21-19). The Scots secured their place in the field with a three-game sweep of Ohio Wesleyan last weekend, while the Yeomen clinched their tournament berth on Sunday with a 9-6 victory at Wittenberg.
First pitch for game one of the tournament is slated for 10 a.m., while the contest between Denison and Allegheny is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start.