Top-ranked and defending national champion Marietta College held on for a 5-4 victory over the Denison Big Red on Monday in Port Charlotte, Fla.
Trailing by three, Denison was down to its final three outs of the game. Senior Evan Nicholson opened the bottom of the ninth with a base hit up the middle, while junior Kyle Clemmenson followed with a base-on-balls. Senior Justin Vaske kept things going with a single to left that loaded the bases with no outs. Junior Lowell Hall knocked in Nicholson and pinch runner Nick Marsit with a pinch-hit single to trim the deficit to one.
After a fielder's choice that retired the lead runner at third and a fly out to left, DU was down to its final out. With runners at first and second, junior Danny Kraus looked to have the game-tying base hit up the middle, but a diving stab by shortstop Tim Saunders ended the Denison rally.
Marietta struck first in the top of the second when Evan Brockmeier scored on an RBI double by Alex Toth. The Pioneers pushed three more unearned runs across in the seventh to take a 4-0 lead.
In the bottom of the eight, Denison scored two to cut the deficit in half. After a pinch-hit single, rookie Ryan Mulligan came round to score on an Andrew Mahle ground out. Senior Tyler Nicholson, who reached base on an error, crossed the dish on a wild pitch by starter Mike Mahaffey. Marietta retook a three-run lead in the top of the ninth when Andrew Coffey scored on a fielder's choice out at second.
Denison starter Connor Murphy suffered his first loss of the season. Murphy went the distance and allowed five runs (1 earned) on five hits. Vaske went 2-for-2 to pace the offense, while Hall knocked in two Big Red runs.
Mahaffey notched the victory after surrendering two unearned runs on three hits with six strikeouts in eight innings of work. Austin Blaski picked up the save after giving up one hit in the ninth frame.
Denison falls to 3-4 on the year, while the Pioneers improve to 5-1. The Big Red returns to the diamond on Tuesday when they take on Rhodes at 3:30 p.m.