BEREA -- After teetering on the edge all afternoon, a five-run ninth inning spelled disaster for the Heidelberg University baseball team, which fell to Otterbein University, 7-3, in the OAC Tournament Championship. Needing a win to force the if-necessary game of the tournament, the Student Princes were unable to deliver a critical basehit when opportunities arose. The Cardinals, who also failed to find the clutch hit throughout most of the game, finally broke through in the ninth.
With the victory, Otterbein earned the OAC's automatic qualifying spot in the 58-team NCAA Tournament. Heidelberg, ranked second in the regional poll released this week, will await its fate. The Berg will hope to receive one of 14 at-large selections.
Making his first collegiate start, freshman Cayden Rollins held the potent Cardinals scoreless into the fourth. Tim Snyder drew a one-out walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. With two down, Dmitri Collaros sent a bouncer up the middle to plate Snyder.
In the fifth, Otterbein -- the No. 4 seed -- took the lead. With two outs, Luke Barber singled, then scored on a Connor Brett double to deep right field.
Joey Wenning, who relieved Rollins in the fifth, worked into the ninth inning -- the longest outing of his career. In the ninth, the Cardinals strung together five hits and scored five runs, taking a 7-2 lead.
Not willing to accept their fate, the Student Princes tried to rally in the ninth. Bateman -- who had three hits on the day -- singled up the middle and eventually scored on an infield single by Matt Psychas. Ochoa followed with a single before Otterbein reliever Jaryd Murphy ended the game with a strikeout.
Rollins worked 4.2 innings and allowed two runs on four hits. He fanned three and walked five. Wenning (0-1) went 3.1 innings and was charged with four runs on four hits. Brady Knizner threw 0.2 innings and allowed a run. Lastly, Mason Metz struck out the only batter he faced.
Following the Otterbein celebration, Tristan Phillips, Matt Psychas, Kane Bateman and Parker Fronk were named to the All-Tournament team. OAC Commissioner Tim Gleason presented Heidelberg with its regular season trophy before handing the tournament trophy to the Cardinals.