May 5, 2014

DU ready for NCAC Tournament rematch

For the second-straight season and the third time in the last five seasons, the Big Red earned a berth in the annual North Coast Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament set to be played at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio. The four-team field at the fifth-annual NCAC Tournament will consist of Denison, Wooster, Allegheny and DePauw. The double-elimination tournament is scheduled to begin on Thursday, May 8 and could potentially continue through Sunday, May 11.

This year's tournament field features three teams that made the NCAC postseason last season. Denison, Wooster and Allegheny were all in Chillicothe a year ago, while DePauw makes its second tournament appearance and its first since 2012. The Fighting Scots and Tigers will kick off postseason play on Thursday, May 8 at 4 p.m. In a rematch of last year's game two, the Big Red will face off against the Gators of Allegheny College. That first pitch is scheduled for 8 p.m.

DU (20-19) secured its spot in the tournament after taking two or three games against Hiram College in last weekend's NCAC Crossover Series. Denison swept Saturday's doubleheader to guarantee its second-consecutive postseason berth. In game one, the Big Red scored early and often to build a 19-run lead after five innings. That advantage eventually resulted in a 19-0 victory. DU scored five times in the first inning, four runs in the second, six in the third, and two in both the fourth and fifth innings. The 19 runs in the opener marked the most by a Big Red team since they scored 26 times in a 2009 victory over Earlham.

In game two, the two teams tossed the lead back-and-forth four times over the course of six innings. After taking a 1-0 lead through one frame, the Terriers answered with solo runs in the second and third to take a one-run advantage. In the fifth, the Big Red scored three times to retake a 4-2 lead. However, Hiram saw four players touch the dish to regain a two-run lead. In the bottom of the sixth, Denison plated five runs thanks to a pair of hits, two wild pitches and a throwing error. Now ahead 9-6, DU outscored Hiram 4-1 over the final two and a half innings to earn the 13-7 victory.

Over the course of two games on Saturday, Denison scored 32 runs and pounded out 39 hits. Additionally, eight of the Big Red's nine starters recorded multiple-hit performances in both games. Senior Connor Murphy and freshman Connor Hanrahan picked up the wins on the mound for DU. Murphy scattered three hits and struck out six in four shutout innings, while Hanrahan allowed one run on two hits with one strikeout in 1.1 innings out of the bullpen.

The Big Red's two seniors, Andrew Touhy and Murphy, have provided leadership and stability both at the plate and on the mound this season. Touhy leads the Big Red with a .380 batting average and a .483 on-base percentage. Those marks rank eighth and third in the NCAC, respectively. The senior is also second on the team in hits (46), walks (18) and RBIs (24), third in runs (28) and slugging percentage (.446), and fourth in total bases (54).

Juniors Georgie Montes, Charlie Apfelbach and Ryan Mulligan have all been key components in the Big Red lineup. Montes leads the team in seven offensive categories including hits (47), triples (4), home runs (3), totals bases (72), runs (35), slugging percentage (.541), and stolen bases (13). Additionally, He ranks second in the conference in triples, sixth in stolen bases and ninth in runs scored. Apfelbach is second in the NCAC in walks (25) and seventh in on-base percentage (.468). He also co-leads the team with three home runs, and ranks second in runs (42), stolen bases (6) and slugging percentage (.484). Mulligan has started all 39 games this year and is hitting .324 with a team-high tying 47 hits. He also leads the team in doubles (9) and RBIs (32). His three triples rank fifth in the conference, while his RBI total is 10th-best in the league.

On the hill, Murphy leads the Big Red with six wins, 13 starts and 64.1 innings pitched. He also leads the DU rotation and ranks fourth in the NCAC with a 3.36 earned run average, while his win total is tied for second in the league. This season, the senior has tossed two shutouts and combined for a third in the opening game of last weekend's NCAC Crossover Series with Hiram. Juniors Kyle Colgain and Ian Barry have also been key pieces in the starting rotation this season. Colgain ranks in the top-10 in the conference in seven difference categories. He is fourth in looking strikeouts (15), sixth in total strikeouts (51), tied for seventh in save (2), eighth in innings (60), ninth in starts (11) and 10th in both wins (4) and opponent batting average (.268). Barry is third on the staff in wins (3), innings pitched (45.2) and strikeouts (26).

In addition to a strong starting rotation, Denison also has a solid bullpen led by Mulligan, Hanrahan and freshman Charlie Binford. In 10 relief appearances, Mulligan is 2-0 with three saves. He has struck out 11 and not allowed a run in 12 innings this season. Hanrahan ranks second in the NCAC in appearances with 20. He boasts a 1-1 record with a 2.70 ERA and two saves in 33.1 innings. Hanrahan also leads all DU relievers with 24 strikeouts. Since spring break, the freshman has a miniscule 0.73 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 24.2 innings of work. Binford has also been solid as of late. He hasn't allowed an earned run in his last four appearances and has six strikeouts over his last 14 innings.

After dropping its NCAC Crossover opener to Wabash, Allegheny (27-12) rallied to pick up two-straight wins to secure a trip to Chillicothe. Mike Pezzone leads the Gator offense with a .364 batting average and a conference-leading .621 slugging percentage. Pezzone's 18 doubles also lead the NCAC, while his 35 RBIs rank fifth. Joe Killian is second in the league with 43 runs scored, while Zach Gray's 18 stolen bases are tied for the best mark in the NCAC. Kyle Davis and Steven Ramsdell co-lead Allegheny with six wins each, while Brandon Ellis boasts a 5-0 record in six starts. Davis has a 3.35 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 75.1 innings, while Ramsdell has fanned 46 in 11 appearances.

Thursday's matchup will mark the third meeting between Denison and Allegheny since the NCAC adopted the tournament format. The Big Red opened the 2010 NCAC Tournament with a 5-1 victory over the Gators. Last year, Allegheny evened the postseason series with a 5-3 victory over Denison in game two of the tournament.

View the NCAC Championship Site