Celebration time for Dragons

Lakota graduate Wehrle picks up win as Tiffin claims first tourney championship

PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSH BURKHOLDER/TIFFIN UNIVERSITY Tiffin University baseball players celebrate after beating Kentucky Wesleyan and winning the Great-Midwest Athletic Conference Tournament in Mason Saturday.

MASON — What seemed like a longshot a week ago — at least to those outside the Tiffin University baseball program — is now reality.

The Dragons, who came into the Great Midwest Athletic Conference tournament as the No. 7 seed, capped a perfect week by downing Kentucky Wesleyan 9-6 in the finals Saturday.

It was the program’s first tournament championship. By winning, the Dragons will make their first regional appearance next week. Tiffin will find out who and where it will be playing in the coming days.

“I’ve been getting texts, messages on Twitter and messages and this and that,” said Tiffin coach Joe Wilkins. “It’s from guys that used to play in the program, and alumni and people who are connected to the program. It’s a place they never were able to get to, and we came short a couple times, and were able to figure it out today. It’s for all those guys. (It’s for) this team, the alumni, the people who paved the way, and I keep telling those guys, this is for them.”

The Dragons jumped all over the Panthers.

They scored a run in the first, and then in the third, took off. Aaron Gonzalez got things started by clubbing a solo shot to left.

The Dragons quickly added on. After Cody Orr scored on a passed ball, Jake Dennis ripped a two-run double, and Kole Klasic followed with an RBI single to make it 6-0.

Then Orr added a two run single to make it 8-0.

“It was everything,” Wilkins said of the inning. “Honestly, we had some opportunities later on and kind of left some runs out there. It could have been a little easier for us.”

That was because Kentucky Wesleyan came back with four runs in the top of the fourth, knocking TU starter Jake Monnin out of the game.

Aaron George finished out the fourth, and then Wilkins turned to freshman hurler — and Lakota graduate –Tyler Wehrle.

“We had two guys in the pen (for that spot), two freshmen Gunnar Boehm and Tyler Wehrle, that we could have gone with,” Wilkins said. “And I thought Tyler was the guy. Gunnar’s been the guy at times, and I thought Tyler was the guy today.”

Wehrle gave the Dragons 3 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits, striking out three and walking a batter. He allowed two runs in the eighth before being replaced by Michael Ross.

“He didn’t have an easy road of it either,” Wilkins said. “He kind of battled through, in and out of the zone.”

But Wilkins said the former Raider battled, comparing him to Orr.

“They come from the same legion program in Pemberville,” he said. “They’ve had a lot of guys come out of that legion program. At the end of the day, it’s how you’re brought up. Those two were brought up the right way.”

It was Wehrle who earned the win, and improved to 6-6 on the season.

Still, there was one last jam the Dragons had to work out of. Ross came in with runners on first and second and two out and TU leading 8-6.

Tiffin got an insurance run in the eighth when Orr had an RBI single. Orr, who pitched a complete game yesterday, had three hits, three runs scored and two RBIs.

He got Reece Puckett to hit into a fielder’s choice to end the inning, and then retired the Panthers in order in the ninth.

In 1 1/3 innings of work, he threw nine pitches.

And then, the celebration was on.

Tiffin improved to 24-29. The Panthers are 30-22.

Otterbein pushes past HU for tournament title

BEREA — Needing to win two games Saturday to claim a tournament title, Heidelberg came up short.

The Student Princes were tied at 2 with Otterbein until the ninth inning of the first scheduled game, but the Cardinals erupted for five runs in the ninth, and beat the Student Princes, 7-3 in the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament Championship.

By being in the winner’s bracket, Otterbein only needed to win once to clinch the title and gain an automatic Division III regional berth.

Dmitri Collaros paced the Cardinals by going 3 for 4 at the plate and driving in two runs. Connor Brett also had two hits and two RBIs.

Travis Engard threw 4 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on two hits.

Clyde graduate Cayden Rollins started for Heidelberg. It was his first collegiate start. He threw 4 2/3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He struck out three and walked five.

Heidelberg pitchers walked 10 batters.

“He went out, competed,” Heidelberg coach Chad Fitzgerald said. “The thing that killed us all day was free passes. We hit a guy, walked a couple guys, it’s hard to overcome those, especially on a day when it was hard to hit.”

Kane Bateman had three hits and scored two runs for Heidelberg. Marc Ochoa added two hits and an RBI, but Heidelberg never had the big inning.

“We just weren’t able to string some stuff together offensively. We had opportunities, we just couldn’t capitalize on them,” Fitzgerald said.

HU closer Joey Wenning relieved Rollins and was great for 3 1/3 inning. But he was charged with four runs in the ninth. He finished striking out two and taking the loss.

Now, Heidelberg will wait to see if it gets an at-large bid to next week’s regionals. It stands at 30-13. Fitzgerald was asked if he thought HU had a chance to keep playing.

“I think we do,” he said. “We were ranked second in the region going into the weekend. So, I think we’re in the mix. We’ll find out tomorrow.”

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