Presidential power lifts W&J

By Pat Coleman

GRAND CHUTE, Wis. - Washington & Jefferson put up multiple runs in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings and made it look fairly easy, improving to 2-0 at the 2017 Division III World Series by defeating Roanoke, 11-1.

Derek Helbing went 3-for-3 with a home run, the bottom third of the order combined for five RBI and Riley Groves threw seven innings of two-hit ball as the Presidents picked up their school-record 40th win of the season. Washington & Jefferson awaits the winner of Sunday morning’s elimination game between Roanoke and Concordia-Chicago.


Washington & Jefferson fans celebrate as Derek Helbing trots home after his fourth-inning homer.
Photo by Kylie Brindhagen,

Even without a strikeout, Riley Groves was essentially unhittable on the mound for W&J.
Photo by Steve Frommell,

Groves came in as a second-team All-America selection, the No. 1 starter for Washington & Jefferson. But the first time through the lineup, Steven Loney was the better pitcher. The Roanoke starter faced the minimum through three innings, as the Presidents’ only baserunner – Helbing – was erased on a double play.

The second time through the lineup, however, Loney was less successful. Helbing hit the ball 400 feet and over the wall in left-center field for a solo homer to tie the game at 1-1 in the fourth inning. Nick Vento followed with a walk and Mark Merlino took Loney even deeper to the same spot of the ballpark one out later, giving the Presidents a 3-1 lead. 

“They had a chance to have more than a 1-0 lead after those three innings and I think because that didn’t happen that allowed us to settle in and stay with our plan,” said W&J coach Jeff Mountain. 

“In the first three innings we struggled with the pitch away,” Merlino said. “We made the adjustment going into that fourth inning. We’ve played from behind recently, we’ve had success with that, so we came out and tried to go deep and hit the gaps.”

Merlino had fouled out to the catcher in the second inning, while Loney (4-2) was mowing through the order the first time through.

“The first at-bat, he pitched me in, kind of got around the baseball, hands extended too much. I was a little overanxious to start the game. You step in that first at-bat and you’re trying to kill the ball. That’s not the approach we take. The second at-bat I was more relaxed. After seeing a pitcher one time, you’re ready to go. The second pitch he left over the plate and he kind of paid for it.”

The bottom half of the Presidents’ order got the job done in the fifth, as Jake Gordon walked, moved over on a groundout and scored on Dante Dalesandro’s single to center. Leadoff batter Adam LaRue hit a double to the gap in left-center field to chase Loney.

And from there the onslaught continued. Ethan Delahunty, making his second relief appearance in as many games, gave up two runs; and Diego Meneses allowed four runs, three earned, in absorbing the final two and two-thirds innings.

Meanwhile, Groves (11-2) was cruising, despite not being at his best. He worked quickly and made the Maroons put the ball in play, allowing two hits and walking three. “Riley kept us in the game, without his best stuff,” Mountain said. “Seven innings, he didn’t strike out a batter, so obviously his secondary stuff wasn’t working great but he battled.”

“I ... wasn’t as sharp as I have been in past outings,” said Groves, who picked up his school-record 28th win for the Presidents. “I think it just came down to locating a fastball and trying to get ahead on guys as best as I could. I think the located fastball was a big key today.”

“Groves was outstanding. We got into some pretty good counts, we thought, but he just made pitches,” said Roanoke coach Matt McGuire. “I think 15 of our 27 outs we were (ahead in the count).”

Sam Watson and Scott Ellis got the lone hits of the game for Roanoke, which fell to 34-18. Drew Mikula drove in the Maroons' only run with a sacrifice fly after Watson got hit by a pitch in the second inning. In addition to Helbing, Dalesandro, Kevin Begley and Jake Gordon each had multi-hit games for the Presidents, as the bottom third of the order combined for six hits in 10 trips and scored three runs.