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DU takes two from Wabash in extras

Connor Murphy tossed his second shutout of the year on Friday at Wabash.
Connor Murphy tossed his second shutout of the year on Friday at Wabash.

On Friday, the top two teams in the North Coast Athletic Conference West Division opened a four-game series in Crawfordsville, Ind.  One team was looking to extend its lead, while the other was trying to regain the top spot in the standings. At the midway points of the series, the Denison baseball team added its lead over Wabash following a pair of extra-inning victories over the Little Giants.  The Big Red took the opener 1-0 in eight innings, while DU rallied to win the nightcap 3-2 in 11 frames.

In game one, Denison senior Connor Murphy outdueled Wabash starter Ross Hendrickson in an eight-inning showdown. In eight innings of work, the two hurlers scattered five hits each and combined for 11 strikeouts.  Murphy improved to 4-3 and earned his third-career shutout after fanning seven batters and issuing one free pass. Hendrickson surrendered the lone run of the game and struck out four.

After giving up back-to-back singles to open the bottom of the seventh, Denison skipper Mike Deegan made a trip to the mound to talk to Murphy and the entire Big Red infield.  Following Deegan's words of wisdom, the senior pitcher got Tyler Hampton to fly out to left fielder Nick Marsit. With the potential game-winning run in scoring position, freshman Conner Madey snagged a liner by Andrew Rodgers and quickly fired a strike to Alex Enrique at first to complete an inning-ending double play.

With two outs in the eighth, freshman Tucker Davison roped a 3-2 pitch down the right line for a stand-up double.  With pinch hitter Duncan Moran at the plate, Hendrickson threw a ball in the dirt that allowed Davison to move to third base.  Moran dropped the ensuing pitch into short center field, scoring the first run of the game.

Like the seventh inning, the Little Giants saw their first two batters of the eighth reach safely.  After a sacrifice bunt moved both runners into scoring position, Murphy found himself in his second-consecutive jam.  The senior composed himself and got Trey Fankhauser to strike out swinging for the second out of the inning.  With the game still on the line, Murphy induced a ground ball to defensive replacement Joe LaPlaca for the final out of the game.

After going scoreless through regulation in the opener, Wabash jumped out to an early lead in game two when Clint Scarborough doubled in David Oliger in the bottom of the first.  Denison answered in the next half inning when a one-out double my Marsit plated Georgie Montes from first.  The Little Giants quickly regained the advantage in the bottom of the second when a deep ball hit to center, coupled with an error in the field, allowed KJ Zelenika to round the bases and score.

The home team maintained its one-run lead until the sixth inning.  With two outs and the bases clear, junior Ryan Mulligan roped a double down the left line.  Montes followed with an RBI single to center that scored the junior, tying the contest at 2-2.

After four and a half scoreless frames, the tie was finally broke in the top of the 11th inning.  Junior Charlie Apfelbach led off the frame with an infield single following a 10-pitch at-bat.  Senior Andrew Touhy followed with a sacrifice bunt that moved Apfelbach into scoring position. With two down, Montes laced a ground ball past a diving Lucas Stippler and into left field.  Scarborough came up throwing to try and gun down the go-ahead run at the plate. However, Apfelbach slipped past the attempted tag by Hampton to give the Big Red a 3-2 lead.

Wabash got two of the first three hitters on base in the 11th.  With one out, Mulligan, who moved to the mound midway through the 10th, got Oliger to fly out to left on a 3-2 pitch.  The junior secured his second victory of the season after getting Tyler Owensby to fly out to center.

Montes hit .500 (4-for-8) on the day, including a 3-for-5 performance in game two.  In the nightcap, the center fielder drove in a pair and scored another.  Mulligan also picked up a pair of hits, including a double, in game two, while Marsit was 2-for-3 with an RBI in the 11-inning victory.

In addition to his performance at the plate, Mulligan improved to 2-0 on the hill after surrendering one hit in 1.1 scoreless frames.  Starter Ian Barry surrendered two runs (one earned) on seven hits with two strikeouts over the course of six innings, while reliever Connor Hanrahan allowed just one hit and struck out five in 3.2 innings out of the pen. 

JT Miller (3-2) suffered the hard-luck loss after scattering 11 hits and fanning seven in 11 innings of work. Oliger, Scarborough, Steven Curry and Zelenika all recorded two hits in game two. Scarborough drove in a run, while Oliger and Zelenika each touched the dish once.

With the sweep, the Big Red improves to 14-11 overall and 10-2 in the NCAC West.  The Little Giants fall to 15-13 on the year and 6-4 in conference play.  The two teams complete the four-game series on Saturday in Crawfordsville.  Game one is scheduled to begin at 12 p.m.