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Troll's shutout leads Denison to its first NCAA Tournament victory

John Troll  |  Photo by Craig Hicks
John Troll | Photo by Craig Hicks

ADRIAN, Mich.—John Troll fired a complete game, five-hit shutout to lead the Denison Big Red to a 4-0 victory over La Roche in the opening game of the NCAA Division III Regional Tournament at Nicolay Field.

The Big Red will face Heidelberg in game four of the regional on Saturday at 3 p.m.

The game was scoreless in the top of the fourth and that's when the Redhawks threatened with a pair of singles to lead off the frame.  Troll got Brandon Nania to ground out to first but La Roche's pair of baserunners advanced to second in third with one out.  Jonathan Melendez followed with a one-hopper to third that was fielded by Brian McAuliffe.  Instead of conceding the run, McAuliffe fired a strike to home plate and Brad Baldinger applied the tag for the second out of the inning.  Troll ended the inning when Dylan Urban flew out to Cam Farren in center.

In the bottom of the fourth, Denison scored its first run on an RBI groundout by Farren with the bases loaded.  McAuliffe ignited the offense with a single.  Vince Walker reached on an error by the right fielder and Baldinger was intentionally walked to set up a potential double play. 

From the top of the fourth until the eighth inning, Troll retired 12-straight batters on a steady dose of sliders that kept the Redhawks off-balance.

Denison gave Troll some breathing room in the bottom of the fifth.  Max Lahn led off with a single up the middle and Ty Robinson was hit by a pitch with one out.  Will Krushena followed with a walk to load the bases.  McAuliffe's grounder to second retired Krushena but Lahn scored with the second run of the game.

With runners on first and third and two outs, Vince Walker made the play of the game, catching the defense off-guard with a squeeze bunt to third.  Lahn scored and Walker was safe at first with a bunt single.  Baldinger followed with a single to right field, scoring McAuliffe with the fourth run of the game.

In the top of the eighth, Troll's streak of successfully retired batters was snapped with a two-out double to right field by Austin Hoffman.  Joe Professori followed with a walk, giving La Roche its first scoring chance since the fourth.  Troll worked out of the jam inducing a pop-up to second base.

In the ninth, Troll sat down La Roche in order to improve to 9-0.  He struck out six and walked only two on 116 pitches.  Baldinger was 2-for-2 with one RBI and two walks.  The Big Red pieced together five hits off La Roche starting pitcher Tristin Tinney (4-3).  He pitched seven innings, allowing three earned runs and five walks while striking out four.

With the win, Denison improves to 39-7 while La Roche drops to 30-14. This is Denison's first NCAA Tournament victory in program history.