Denison senior pitcher Connor Murphy tossed a gem over seven innings to send the Denison Big Red to a 5-3 victory over Allegheny on Thursday in Chillicothe, Ohio. With the win, DU advances to the winner's bracket game of the 2014 North Coast Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament on Friday against the College of Wooster, who defeated DePauw University 15-10 in the opening round of the tournament.
The Big Red wasted not time giving Murphy a lead after he tossed a 1-2-3 top of the first inning. Denison junior Georgie Montes led off the bottom of the first with a double to right center field. In an attempt to move Montes to third with a sacrifice bunt, freshman Evan Flax reached base, and eventually moved to second, on a throwing error by Allegheny pitcher Kyle Davis. Montes also moved 180 feet to score DU's first run of the ball game.
The Gators threatened to tie the game in the top of the second when a one-out single and a pair of stolen bases found Zach Gray on third base. However, a strikeout of Adam Bronson and a high pop out to Tucker Davison in the middle of the diamond kept Allegheny off the board. Davison later extended the Denison lead with a single deep in the shortstop hole in the bottom of the second. The freshman's infield single allowed fellow freshman Alex Enrique to score. Junior Zac Lewinski also crossed the dish in the second on a fielder's choice out to the pitcher.
Murphy really hit is stride in the third, fourth and fifth innings as he faced the minimum amount of hitters. The senior retired the side in the order in the third and fifth innings, while a 6-3 double play in the fourth erased the only base runner during that stretch. Murphy allowed back-to-back two-out singles that put runners at the corners in the sixth, but a fly ball to Montes in center kept the Gators from plating their first run of the game.
Allegheny generated their biggest threat to score in the top of the seventh. After Mike Pezzone led off the inning with a single, he swiped second with after Gray struck out swinging. With a runner in scoring position, Bronson drew a one-out walk, while Jacob Shick loaded the bases after being struck by a pitch. Denison's senior pitcher regained his composure and struck out Ben Murray for the second out of the inning. Still in danger of giving up a run or more, Murphy snagged a comebacker off the bat of Matt Sardini and easily flipped an underhand toss to Enrique at first to escape the jam unscathed.
The Big Red added two key runs in the bottom of the seventh off the bats of Andrew Touhy and Enrique. After three-consecutive hits to lead off the inning, Touhy drove in Flax with a sacrifice fly to centerfield. The next batter, Enrique, dropped a single into center that allowed Charlie Apfelbach to score DU's fifth run of the game.
The Gators' Eric Weyant broke up the shutout when he sent the second pitch by DU reliever Kyle Colgain over the wall in left center field. Still trailing by four in the top of the ninth, Allegheny received some good fortune after a walk and a base hit. A fielding error at short allowed Gray to score from second, while a ground out to third plated Bronson. After another DU miscue brought the game-tying run to the plate, Montes came up with one of the most amazing plays of the season. Weyant, who earlier hit a home run off Colgain, drove a Ryan Mulligan pitch to deep center field. Montes tracked the ball all the way to the fence and made a leaping catch at the wall that sent the Big Red faithful into a frenzy.
Murphy scattered four hits over seven-scoreless innings en route to his team-leading seventh win of the season. The senior also fanned eight batters and issued just two walks. Mulligan earned his fourth save of the year after tossing a hitless ninth inning.
Apfelbach paced the Denison offense with two hits and a run, while Montes and Enrique each had a hit, an RBI and a run. Flax and Lewinski also collected a hit and scored a run.
Davis (6-5) suffered the loss after allowing five runs (four earned) on nine hits in 6.1 innings of work. The senior struck out five and walked two. Weyant and Davis each had two hits.
First pitch between Denison and Wooster is scheduled for 12 p.m. at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio.