Late rally propels Presidents over Pioneers

D.J. Michalski’s run scoring single in the top of the tenth inning plated Derek McIlvaine with what proved to be the game winning run as the Washington & Jefferson Presidents edged the Marietta College Pioneers 12-10 Thursday afternoon at Don Schaly Stadium.

Michalski’s sixth run batted in of the game gave the President’s the victory in a game that saw them rally from four runs down to spoil the Pioneers home opener.

“Washington & Jefferson did an exceptional job swinging the bats today,” said Pioneer head coach Brian Brewer of the Presidents, who collected 19 hits in the game off of six different Marietta College pitchers. “We figured that hitting was going to catch up with pitching at some point and tonight was a good example of that.”

W&J took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when McIlVaine led off with a double off of Pioneer starting pitcher Tyler Nieberding, moved to third on a single by Michalski and scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Josh Staniscia.

The Etta Express got on the board in the last of the second when shortstop Christan Demko cleared the bases with a three-run triple and then scored on a bunt single by Zac Bukiewicz to give Marietta College a 4-1 lead.

It appeared as if Nieberding may have found a little rhythm on the mound as he blanked the Presidents in the second and third inning’s before a stretch of wildness proved costly for freshman right hander in the fourth.

With one out Nieberding issued consecutive base on balls to Kyle McLain and Tyler Schultz before third baseman Kyle Smith drilled a three-run homer over the left field wall to tie things up at 4-4. “We had some walks and some really fundamental things that hurt us,” said Brewer, who will need plenty of arms this weekend as his team is scheduled to play a pair of double headers on Saturday and Sunday. “Walks to lead off innings almost always seem to come back to haunt you.”

Marietta College jumped right back in front in its half of the fourth when Ryan Hanahan led off with a triple and scored on a double by center fielder Dylan Gracia.

Gracia advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Tim McCoy and scored when Demko grounded out to third for his fourth RBI of the game.

Michalski’s ground out in the top of the fifth plated McIlvaine once again to trim the Pioneers’ lead to a run but MC answered with three runs of its own in the bottom of the inning.

First baseman Mitch Geers led off the inning with his first long ball of the season, a shot over the left field fence and a two-run double by Gracia gave the Express a 9-5 lead.

Michalski delivered once again in the sixth inning as his two-out, two-run single off of Pioneers’ reliever Forrest Kirsch trimmed the lead to 9-7. Pioneers’ designated hitter Chris Winpigler singled in a run in the Pioneer sixth to push the lead back to three but the Presidents scored three times off of Pioneers’ freshman Zak Janus in the eighth to tie the game at 10-10.

Another two-run single off the bat of Michalski cut the Pioneers’ lead to 10-9 and Staniscla’s infield RBI ground out evened things up once again.

The Pioneers let a golden opportunity slip away in their half of the eighth inning when they put the go ahead runs on second and third base with nobody out thanks to a pair of W & J errors but failed to dent the plate.

Presidents’ reliever Brian O’Neill induced Winpigler to ground out softly to second base and then retired Johnston and Hanahan on a come-backer to the mound and a strikeout to keep the game tied. “We were in a very good situation there and just didn’t capitalize on it,” said Brewer. “Credit has to go to there pitcher (O’Neill) he did a really good job.”

Mike Fulton tossed a scoreless ninth for the Pioneers and President freshman southpaw Tim Mulvey followed suit in the last of the ninth to send the game to extra innings.

Ray Sowisnski, the fourth freshman arm used by Brewer in the game, took over on the mound in the tenth and was greeted by a double by McIlvaine. Michalski capped his outstanding game with a solid single up the middle to score McIlvaine with what proved to be the game winner.

McClain added an insurance run with a two-out RBI single to make it a 12-10 game before taking over on the mound in the bottom of the 12th to try an close out the game for W&J.

The senior right hander retired the Pioneers in order as the Presidents closed out the come-from-behind victory.

Mulvey, the younger brother of former Marietta College pitcher Mike Mulvey, evened his record at 1-1 with victory, while Sowinski (0-1) was saddled with the defeat.

Washington & Jefferson evened their season mark at 7-7 while the Pios slipped to 11-5 with the loss, with a pair of twin bills scheduled against Baldwin Wallace and Ohio Wesleyan on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

“We just need to really work on playing better situational baseball,” said Brewer. “Hopefully we will figure it out over the course of the next 48 hours or so and be ready to go on Saturday.”