MARIETTA - It was 90 minutes before gametime. Heidelberg had lost earlier in the day, 15-1 to Marietta in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament, and now faced a do-or-die game with Mount Union to advance to the tournament finals.
Matt Palm gave the ball to Willard graduate Sylvester Nino. The senior made the choice look brilliant.
Nino pitched a complete game, allowing eight hits, striking out six and walking three. He allowed three runs. Run support was not a problem for his teammates, as the Student Princes banged out 17 hits and won, 16-3.
"My defense played well behind me, I was just throwing strikes," said Nino, who improved to 4-0. "I got into a couple jams and they helped me out."
Heidelberg coach Matt Palm said his starter came up big.
"He pitched a tremendous game," Palm said. "He really settled in, and the way our offense played tonight makes you feel better about what you're doing."
Elvin Williams, another senior, homered for the second-straight day. He had two hits, scored twice and drove in three runs. Ricardo Lizcano also drove in three runs for HU, while Joe Staab had three hits and drove in two runs.
With the win, Heidelberg (27-16) moves to the OAC finals for the fifth-consecutive year. And for the fifth-consecutive year, the Student Princes will face Marietta. Heidelberg will have to beat the Pioneers twice today to take the tournament crown. Unlike in past seasons, HU likely will have to win the tournament to secure a regional bid.
Marietta is the No. 1 team in Division III and the defending national champions. It also is 3-0 against HU this season.
"We just have to have the same belief that we have against everybody else," Palm said. "[Against everybody else], if we fall behind, there's no panic, we believe. That has to happen (today). Hopefully our guys have that confidence that we can beat them."
In Friday's game between the teams, the score was tied at one after three innings, but Marietta took the lead for good with a run in the fifth, three in the sixth, five in the seventh and five in the eighth.
"They just extended the lead and it got out of control," Palm said.
Heidelberg used six pitchers in the loss. Ryan Minteer made the start and allowed two runs in four innings, taking the loss.
HU plays Marietta at noon today.