Celebration Spoiled by Witt Split
by Brent Harris
April 17, 2011
Wabash celebrated the dedication of its new baseball stadium and the careers of six seniors in grand style prior to the start of a two-game series with Wittenberg. John Holm capped the festivities with a game-winning solo homer in the eighth inning for a 10-9 win, becoming the Little Giants' career home run leader. He hit two more homers in game two, only to see Wittenberg rally from a four-run deficit by scoring seven runs in the seventh to win 12-9.
Holm belted a 1-0 fastball over the centerfield fence at Wabash Ballpark for his 26th career home run, moving him past Matt Dodaro's record of 25. With his two home runs in the second game, Holm finished the week with a total of four home runs while hitting .688 with 11 RBI. He has hit a North Coast Athletic Conference-leading 10 home runs and needs five RBI to break his own single-season record of 51 set last year.
"The record is nice, but what I'm focused on is all of us trying to make the NCAC tournament and have a chance to win a conference title," Holm said after laying claim to another Wabash record. "That's where my focus is right now. We have four games left and I want to do everything possible to make certain we have a chance to play in the conference tournament.
"I had a chance to play and be coached by Matt Dodaro. It is great to be on the same list with him. He was a tremendous player and passed along a lot of hitting tips to me both as a teammate and as an assistant coach last season. He's a great Wabash man and an outstanding Wabash player."
The Little Giants trailed Wittenberg 5-8 heading into the bottom half of the sixth before senior David Seibel started the rally with a single. Fellow senior Joe Johnson drilled a triple to right-center to bring Seibel home to the first run of the inning. A sacrifice fly by Chris Deig scored Johnson with another run, cutting the Wittenberg lead to one run. John Pennington's single set the table for Holm, who launched a long drive to left-centerfield. Tiger outfielder Ray Noe raced to the wall but couldn't make the catch. Holm reached third with a triple while Pennington scored the game-tying run. Wabash could not bring Holm home with a go-ahead run, but headed to the final regular inning tied at 8-8.
The Tigers scored a run in the top of the seventh to take a 9-8 lead before Wabash mounted another comeback effort. Senior PJ Tyson drilled a one-out double to left, then moved to third when when Seibel struck out after the Wittenberg catcher was forced to throw Seibel out at first on a dropped third strike.
Brian Lares stepped in to pinch hit for Johnson. Lares (below left) had missed the last two weeks of ball after breaking his left thumb sliding into a base against Valparaiso. Despite wearing a cast to protect the thumb that limited movement in his left hand, the junior drilled a 2-2 pitch up the middle to tie the game at 9-9 and send it to extra innings.
Luke Zinsmaster struck out two Tigers in the top of the eighth while retiring three of the four hitters he faced. Deig and Pennington both flied out to start the bottom of the eighth to bring Holm to the plate. Two pitches later the Little Giants were celebrating their seventh win in conference play, tying the Tigers for second place in the NCAC standings.
Zinsmaster picked up his third win of the season in relief of starter Andrew Swart. Wittenberg's Matt Rupert was in line to pick up his ninth save in relief for the Tigers, but instead took the loss.
As high as the Little Giants were after winning game one, the Wabash squad hit a low in the seventh inning of game two. Holm pounded a two-run in the first that was nearly followed by back-to-back shots off a long drive by Montana Timmons, but this time Noe was able to make a spectacular catch to rob the Wabash sophomore of a home run. Wabash added four runs in the second to move in front 6-0.
The Tigers scored three runs in the fourth and another in the fifth and sixth to cut the lead to 6-5 before Holm struck again. Deig reached base on a one-out double, followed by a walk to Pennington. Holm connected on a 1-1 pitch, blasting the ball over the right field fence to boost the Wabash lead to 9-5.
Wittenberg brought an end to the Wabash celebration by collecting seven consecutive hits in the top of the seventh. The Tigers eventually scored seven runs on eight hits to move in front 12-9. Wabash was retired in order in the bottom half of the inning to end any hope of a comeback.
Jeff Soller could not close out the seventh inning, taking the loss for Wabash. Zinsmaster and Nate Adams also pitched in seventh, eventually helping to end the Wittenberg rally. JC Birr picked up the win in relief for the Tigers (19-15, 8-4 NCAC).
Holm finished the day with six hits in nine trips to the plate with eight RBI. Deig, Timmons, and Seibel each added four hits over the two games.
Wabash (15-20, 7-5 NCAC) will finish the regular season this week with a five games. The Little Giants will play Elmhurst College on Wednesday evening at the US Steel Yard in Gary, Indiana before playing four key conference games over the weekend. Wabash will play two games at Kenyon College on Friday, followed by a two-game series at Denison on Saturday.