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Denison baseball brings impressive resume to NCAC Tournament

Will Krushena and Jack Blanchard  | Photo by Jace Delgado
Will Krushena and Jack Blanchard | Photo by Jace Delgado

GRANVILLE, Ohio – After a record-setting 31-8 campaign and a seven-game winning streak to end the regular season, 24th ranked Denison baseball has earned the No. 2 seed in the 2018 North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament held at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio on May 10-12.

The Big Red's first-round match-up comes against third-seeded Wabash College at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 10. DU recently swept the Little Giants, 4-2 and 16-1, in an NCAC doubleheader on Saturday, May 5. The wins moved Denison to 15-3 in conference play to end the regular season.  All NCAC Tournament games will be live streamed by the NCAC using the Wabash College live streaming portal. Department representatives from each competing school will share broadcasting duties throughout the tournament.

The first game of the opening round features No. 1 Wooster and No. 4 Kenyon at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday with Denison and Wabash following at 8:30 p.m.

Entering the tournament with one of the best offenses in the NCAC, the Big Red currently boasts a team batting average of .305, including five batters with more than 125 at-bats hitting above .310. They also sport a .475 slugging percentage and a program-best 34 home runs.

Senior Tanner Johnson has led the powerful DU bats this season, hitting .404 with 50 RBIs, 55 runs scored and nine home runs. He also leads the conference with a .742 slugging percentage and 24 stolen bases. A member of last year's NCAC All-Tournament team, Johnson also leads the Big Red in on-base percentage (.528) and total hits (61).

Shortstop Jack Blanchard continues to improve on his career accolades while batting .338 this season with 35 runs scored and a team-high 17 doubles. The program's all-time leader in assists continues to amaze in 2018, totaling 109 for the season, ranking fourth overall in the conference.  Blanchard is a contender for the gold glove at shortstop in the mid-east region.

Sam Frazen, Grady Paine, and Will Krushena have also added consistent offense for DU this season, all hitting .314 or better with a combined 14 home runs and 106 runs batted in. Behind the plate, Frazen's five pick-offs and 14 runners caught stealing are tops in the conference.

On the mound, junior reliever Mikey Rivera has been as dominant as you can get for the Big Red bullpen. Leading the NCAC in earned run average (1.79), opposing batting average (.177) and saves (7) this season. Rivera has posted 60 strikeouts over 50.1 innings of work in 23 appearances and is one save away from tying Denison's single-season record (8) with Matt Streicher (2002) and Aidan Lucas (2009).

Senior Perley Provost has supplied the same consistency for Denison's starting rotation, logging a perfect 10-0 record with 41 strikeouts and a 2.35 ERA. He is currently tied with Cam Cowden (2004) for the most wins in a single season.

This marks the Big Red's third-straight trip to the NCAC Tournament and their 13th in program history.

The College of Wooster enters the tournament as the top seed and the No. 2 ranked team in the nation at 34-6 overall and 16-2 in the NCAC. The Fighting Scots captured their 18th regular season conference championship on Saturday as they split with Kenyon College, losing game one 11-10 before winning the second game, 17-1. Batting .363 for the year, Wooster is led by junior All-American Michael Wielansky and his .396 batting average with 64 runs scored and six home runs.

As the No. 3 seed, Wabash enters the weekend with an overall record of 25-15. This marks their first NCAC Tournament appearance since 2011, which happens to be the last time they won the conference. The Little Giants are led on offense by Bryce Aldridge and Jackson Blevins' 43 RBIs each, while Bryan Roberts poses as their biggest threat on the mound with a record of 6-3 and a 2.49 ERA.

The tournament's final slot belongs to fourth-seeded Kenyon and their 16-16 mark on the season. Kenyon earned a spot in their first NCAC Tournament since 2012 when they shocked No. 1 Wooster last Saturday, 11-10. Headlined by Mikey Arman's .440 batting average and 30 RBIs, the Lords have six players with more than 50 at-bats hitting .300 or better on the season.

The winner of Denison-Wabash and Wooster-Kenyon will play on Friday, May 11 at 12 p.m. in Chillicothe.

Additional Notes

  • Matchup History: Denison is 50-21 all-time against Wabash, including 16 wins in the last 18 matchups.
  • "Skipping" into the Postseason: In six seasons in Granville, Denison head coach Mike Deegan has elevated the Big Red into a consistent contender for the North Coast Athletic Conference championship and an NCAA regional berth.  Will this be the year?  Denison is 8-0 against the Ohio Athletic Conference and is currently ranked second in the Mid-East regional rankings.  Deegan boasts a career record of 152-89 and his .631 career winning percentage ranks him first in DU history.  He is only 31 wins shy of becoming the program's all-time leader in wins. 
  • Extra Base Bonanza: With 95 doubles and 19 triples so far on the season, the Big Red is currently tied for the single-season records in both categories. Denison's 34 home runs this season are the most by any team in school history. They have also set the single-game record for home runs with four against Otterbein on May 6.
  • Field of Dreams: As a team, DU has tallied a .967 fielding percentage in 2018. That currently ranks first all-time in program history, edging the .966 record set in 2016.
  • Let's turn two: The Big Red broke a 10-year-old record with 37 double plays turned this season, snapping the 2008 record of 36. Assisting on 27 of the DP's, Jack Blanchard ranks second all-time in school history, turning 85 double plays during his tenure.
  • Walk the Line: Batting .291 with 39 hits and five home runs, Vince Walker is tied for the team-lead with five triples and ranks second with eight stolen bases. As a leadoff batter, Walker is hitting .575 on the season and has recorded three or more RBIs in a game twice this season.
  • Just being Petty: Leading the Big Red with a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage, Nick Pettigrew is hitting .257 with 20 runs scored and 28 hits. With runners on third base with less than two outs, Pettigrew has tallied a .588 batting average. In a 9-1 win at Heidelberg on April 25, Pettigrew went 4-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI.
  • Big Mac: In his first full season as a regular starter, Brian McAuliffe has totaled 26 runs batted in, 11 doubles and an on-base percentage of .351. McAuliffe has turned six double plays this season and recorded his best day at the plate on a 3-for-4 performance against Otterbein (March 28) with a home run.
  • Hahn Solo: In his first full season at second base, Noah Hahn's 85 assists are second on the team and his 21 double plays turned rank third. At the dish, Hahn is hitting .250, but his average jumps to .500 in the leadoff role. The senior has tallied 30 hits and 17 runs batted in this season, including a 3-for-3 day with a run scored in the 4-2 upset of No. 2 Wooster on April 28.
  • Mr. Reliable: In 15 appearances, Andrew Bruss has compiled a 1-1 record with 9 strikeouts and a 4.00 ERA. Bruss has also totaled 48 relief appearances for his career, ranking him fourth all-time in school history. His best performance of the season came in a 4-0 win against Amherst where he tallied three strikeouts and no runs over 3.1 innings pitched.
  • Rated Rookie: Primarily as a starter in his first season, Taylor Perrett has been nothing short of brilliant for the Big Red. With an 8-2 record, Perrett has totaled a 3.37 ERA with 42 strikeouts, good for second on the team. His eight wins rank second in the NCAC, two wins behind teammate Perley Provost. He also set a career-high with 10 strikeouts in an 18-6 win over Oberlin on May 2.
  • Oh Danny Boy: Earning his shot as a top-line starter this season, Danny Brackman has shown up for DU, posting a 5-1 record, 2.72 earned run average and 35 strikeouts over 46.1 innings of work. In a 13-1 win over Hiram on April 13, Brackman set a career-high with seven strikeouts in eight innings pitched for the Big Red.