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Denison rally stuns Otterbein, ties program record for wins

Sam Frazen  |  Photo by Craig Hicks
Sam Frazen | Photo by Craig Hicks

WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- Denison baseball matched a program record with their 31st win of the season on Sunday afternoon, rallying from a 9-0 deficit to defeat Otterbein University 12-10 at Fishbaugh Field to wrap up the regular season. The Big Red's record of 31-8 marks the third time in school history that the program has tallied 31 wins in a season, joining the 2003 and 2004 squads in the record book.

The victory also completes an 8-0 sweep for the Big Red against the Ohio Athletic Conference. In those eight contests, Denison has outscored their opponents from the OAC, 71-41.

With the Big Red looking for their seventh-straight victory, the beginning looked bleak as the Cardinals jumped out of the gates in the bottom of the first with an RBI single from Connor Brett and a three-run home run from Pat Birrer. Otterbein eventually took a 9-0 lead after four innings of play.

In the top of the sixth, Denison recorded their first run of the game when Will Krushena grounded out to the second baseman to score Tanner Johnson and advance Grady Paine to third base. After Sam Frazen was hit by a pitch and Vince Walker was sent to first on a walk, the Cardinals' Eric Norton entered in relief of Ethan Doty with the bases loaded and two outs.

On the first pitch of the next at-bat, Brian McAuliffe launched a grand slam over the right field wall to cut DU's deficit to 9-5 entering the seventh.

Denison's rally continued in the seventh when Jack Blanchard blasted a two-run home run down the left field line. In the eighth, it was Walker who provided the muscle with a two-run home run over the out-stretched glove of Otterbein's left fielder to tie the game at 9-9.

Later in the inning with runners on second and third and one out, Johnson tallied his 50th RBI of the season when he singled through the left side scoring Anthony Ruggieri from third to give the Big Red their first lead of the game, 10-9.

Following a weather delay in the middle of the eighth that lasted nearly one hour and 45 minutes, Otterbein's Tim Snyder singled up the middle with one out in the bottom of the eighth. After a passed ball from Frazen put Snyder on second, Ben Beachy drove him home with a single to center field, tying the game at 10-10 heading to the ninth.

Krushena led the ninth off with a single through the right side, Frazen made up for his miscue in the eighth with a two-run home run down the left field line to put the Big Red back in front, 12-10. Frazen's home run was the fourth of the day for DU, setting a new single-game record. Frazen's home run was also the 34th of the season for the team, breaking the previous single-season school record of 33, set in 2003.

Clinging to a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, Denison's Mikey Rivera returned for his second inning of relief work to tally back-to-back swinging strikeouts, securing his third win of the season.

Along with his game-winning home run, Frazen finished his 2-for-3 performance with three runs scored and two RBIs. McAuliffe finished with a game-high four RBIs, while Johnson also went 2-for-3 with two runs scored. Pat Birrer led the way for Otterbein with three RBIs and two runs scored. The Cardinals fall to 28-12 on the season.

Riding a seven-game winning streak to end the regular season, Denison enters the NCAC Tournament (May 10-12) as the No. 2 seed, on Thursday, May 10 against third-seeded Wabash College at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio. The first pitch is scheduled for 8:30 p.m.