Fronk drives in 4, Heidelberg claims Game 1
Parker Fronk gave Heidelberg a lead in the first inning with a two-run double to right center.
In the seventh inning, he was asked to get a big hit again.
The Heidelberg first baseman has been coming through all postseason. Friday, in the Division III super regional against Wooster at Peaceful Valley, Fronk’s timely hitting was vital in another big step for the Student Princes. He hit a one-out double in the seventh, driving in two runs and giving Heidelberg the lead. It gave him four RBIs on the day.
The Princes tacked on another run in the seventh and one more in the eighth, and behind stellar relief pitching from Clyde graduate Cayden Rollins and closer Joey Wenning, struck the first blow of the super regional, winning 8-5.
Heidelberg (34-13) will have two chances to clinch a spot in next week’s Division III World Series today. The first will be at 11 a.m. at Peaceful Valley. Should Heidelberg lose to Wooster, there will be a second game afterward, with the winner of that game moving on.
It’s the closest Heidelberg has been to the World Series since its appearance there in 2010.
“We’re a long way away. We know we’ve got one more,” said HU coach Chad Fitzgerald, who was an assistant on the 2010 team. “We’re half way home to what we want to do.”
The Fighting Scots had rallied from an early 2-0 deficit to get five runs over the first four innings against Student Princes starting pitcher Alex Sir Louis.
Going to the top of the seventh, HU still tailed Wooster 5-2. It hadn’t done any damage against Scots starter Andrew Hill since the first.
But things improved for Heidelberg when Hill walked Zach Doran to start the inning.
That was it for Hill. Wooster coach Tim Pettorini replaced him with reliever Wyatt Linde.
Hill finished allowing three runs on four hits. He walked three and struck out five.
“Andrew was still pretty good, even at the end,” Pettorini said. “Last couple innings, he just didn’t have any breaking ball. He was throwing fastballs right past people, but we really wanted him to get some breaking balls over. We felt like if he could have just got either a breaking ball or a changeup to work off his fastball, he’d have been good for at least another inning or two.”
Instead, Doran advanced to second when Linde threw a wild pitch, then Robert Hunt laced a base hit down the left field line, scoring Doran. Kane Bateman following with a ringing single to right center, putting runners at the corners.
That was it for Linde; he was replaced on the mound by Brian Murray. Murray walked the first hitter he faced — Kyle Jenkins — to load the bases with no outs. He got the dangerous Matt Psychas to foul out, but then hit Marc Ochoa, forcing in a run and making it 5-4.
That brought up Fronk.
“Just find the barrel, hit balls hard, hopefully it falls,” Fronk said of his mindset.
Fronk ripped a Murray pitch to right, just beyond the reach of Wooster’s Ben Gbur. It got past the right fielder and rolled. That scored two runners, and Heidelberg led, 6-5.
“Their kid hit a ball, we couldn’t quite get to it,” Pettorini said. “Right-center field. (Fronk) did it twice.”
Heidelberg added on when Tyler Smith flied to medium left field. Ochoa came home from third, just beating the relay throw.
The 7-5 lead was turned over to Rollins, a freshman southpaw. The former Flier threw a scoreless sixth, and Fitzgerald sent him back out.
“I know I have to come in there and throw strikes,” said Rollins, who picked up the win. “If I throw strikes and they hit the ball, I know the defense is behind me, picking me up and making (plays).”
Rollins worked around a two-out walk to work a scoreless seventh. In the eighth, Bateman added to the lead by ripping a single off Wooster pitcher Dylan Carr and into short right. That scored Doran from second, and gave Heidelberg a three run edge.
In the last week’s regional in Adrian, Fitzgerald used Brady Knizner to pitch with a lead in the eighth in all three games.
But this time, Fitzgerald stuck with Rollins.
“(Rollins was commanding the zone,” Fitzgerald said. “He was implementing our gameplan, where we hadn’t done it up to that point. So why change?”
Rollins retired the Scots in order in the eighth. He finished going three innings with no hits allowed, two walks and two strikeouts.
“I just did my job,” Rollins said.
In the ninth, Wenning made quick work of the Scots, getting a strikeout, a line out, and ending the game by fanning Dan Gail.
Overall, Heidelberg’s bullpen of Mason Metz, Rollins and Wenning went five hitless innings, walking four and striking out three. Wenning recorded his 11th save.
“Just a little different than where we were last week,” Fitzgerald said. “Our starters gave us such great outings last week that we didn’t have to use our bullpen a whole lot. Everybody’s ready in any situation.”
The bullpen — as well as starter Sir Louis, had some help from the defense along the way.
With the score tied at 2 in the third, Wooster’s Garrett Crum launched a pitch to left. Psychas went back to the wall, reached above it, and pulled the ball back in for an out.
“I don’t know if it was over the fence, or whatever,” Pettorini said. “But a couple inches here, a couple inches there, it’s a different ball game.”
Psychas made another big play in the fifth. With two runs in, two out and the Scots leading 5-2, Chandler Dippman hit a ball that looked ticketed for the left-center gap.
But Psychas, going full-speed, ran it down.
“Matt Psychas and defense, they don’t necessarily go in the same sentence,” Fitzgerald said, to some chuckles in the media room. “But, no. He’s always played a solid left field. You can just tell how important this game is for him, and how important this team is to him. He was gonna sell out.”
Wooster fell to 30-14. Murray took the loss.
The Scots go into today at a disadvantage, but that’s not unfamiliar to them.
Last week in their regional, Wooster lost the first game to Rochester.
From the loser’s bracket, the Scots won four straight games to make it here.
“Same message,” said Wooster shortstop Jake Stuursma, who had two hits and drove in two runs. “The group we have in the dugout, love every one of them. They battled hard today, didn’t go our way. We’ve got to come out and battle the same way we have. I’m really confident in these guys. I think we’ll come out confident and ready to go.”
Gail hit a solo homer in the third inning for Wooster, and drove in two runs. Harry Whitwer-Dukes had two hits and scored a run.
For Heidelberg, Bateman had three hits and scored twice. Jenkins and Doran each scored twice, while Hunt had a pair of hits, a run scored and an RBI.
And now the Student Princes are a win away from the Series.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said Fronk, a senior. “Just enjoy the moment. We’re here. It took four years to get here, and it’s finally here. Just live it up and have fun.”