Redeem Team! Otterbein Cruises to OAC Tournament Crown

More news about: Otterbein

ALLIANCE, Ohio – The Otterbein baseball team culminated its redemption run through the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) Tournament in prime fashion Saturday afternoon, blasting host Mount Union by a score of 14-8 to claim the title.

The Cardinals, holding a 13-1 lead at one point, capture the program's sixth OAC Tournament championship overall and first since 2007. Otterbein won the regular-season title last spring but then fell short in the league's postseason event.

"We were completely ready and began creating positive momentum last week," said head coach George Powell, who wins his fifth OAC Tournament title at the helm. "If we play to our potential, we are as good as anyone. We pitched it great and were able to defeat a good team in Mount Union again today. There is a reason they won the regular season."

As a result of this year's triumph, Otterbein receives an automatic bid to the upcoming NCAA Tournament. The team will learn of its destination late Sunday night or early Monday morning through a press release, as there is no live selection show.

"It's a lot more fun winning the tournament this time around," joked shortstop Ben Beachy, the tournament's 'Dick Fishbaugh' Most Valuable Player. "We were so hungry this season and so locked in this weekend to do a job. We had momentum from our first inning and never let it go."

Otterbein (31-12) erupted to begin the championship showdown, loading the bases with no outs and ultimately plating four runs by the time a furious sequence was done. Third baseman Connor Brett and first baseman Christian Chiero delivered RBI singles in the spurt.

The Cardinals busted the game open in the fourth inning, with second baseman Mitch Stotler drawing a walk and then Otterbein's top of the lineup getting four-consecutive hits from Beachy, Pat BirrerBryan Stopar and clean-up catcher Stephan Hernon.

Otterbein lastly took advantage of a Raider throwing error in the frame, hustling around for two final runs and eventually leaving the inning with a 9-1 advantage.

The Cards continued pouring it on, scoring twice in the fifth inning and then tacking on another two in the sixth inning as a Mount Union coach and player were both ejected for arguing. Otterbein kept its emotions in check and played behind the right-arm of starting pitcher Johnny Putnam, who went five-plus innings before turning the game over to his bullpen.

Mount Union kept fighting in the closing innings, getting a three-run homer in the sixth and scoring some late runs to help shrink the final margin. The gap would be too much, however, as senior Caleb Norton recorded a strikeout to end the day and erupt the Cardinal dugout.

"I can't say enough about the way our kids played and battled this weekend," Powell said. "We feature great leadership and had motivated players ready to grab what they deserve. Beyond that, I can't talk enough about the dedication of my coaching staff and the way they prepare our guys each and every day. It's easy to coach with the support I have alongside me."
Beachy's MVP honor came after the sophomore hit a perfect 4 for 4 with a walk a sac-fly and three runs scored during the game, adding to his three-hit performance against Marietta on day one. Otterbein finished with 17 hits collectively as Hernon, Brock Frentzel (LF), Craig Prince (RHP) and Stevie Yuran (LHP) also garnered spots on the All-Tournament Team.

"The hardest part was playing with such a big lead," Beachy added. "You have to stay focused from the first out to the last out and not let your opponent press back too much. It was great to finish the task at hand and watch our seniors raise that trophy afterwards."

Stopar and Chiero finished 3 for 5, with Stopar registering a game-high three RBI, while Brett and Birrer also had multi-hit games. Putnam improved to 8-2 on the mound for a Cardinal pitching staff that broke the school's single-season record for most strikeouts (317).

"We hold a dream of winning a national championship for this program someday," Powell said. "Winning this tournament gets us to the next tournament, and now gives us a chance to keep chasing it. Our team will be as good as any team at the regional, so we won't just be there to pick up t-shirts and hats. It comes down to how we play the game and take advantage of what our opponents give us. That continues to be my message."

The year 2007 also marked the last time Otterbein played in an NCAA Tournament, falling one game shy of the World Series after a 3-2 loss in the regional championship.