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Beaton comes up big in game one; ONU sweeps BW

Sophomore Scott Beaton threw four innings of two-hit baseball to close out game one of ONU's doubleheader with Baldwin Wallace on Tuesday. Northern won that game, 4-3. (Northern Review photo/ Grant Pepper)

Around 11 a.m. on Monday, ONU head baseball coach Gene Stechschulte sat at his desk, hunched over a stat sheet. He was visibly drained — bags under his eyes, fatigue in his voice.

He and his team had returned to Ada less than 12 hours earlier, having completed a Sunday road sweep of Mount Union, who won the OAC last year. They would have to turn around and face another conference juggernaut, Baldwin Wallace, on Tuesday at home. The turnaround was quick and the Yellow Jackets would be well-rested, having not played since they trounced lowly Wilmington last Friday.

Such is life in the world of Ohio college baseball, where rainouts — and this year, snow-outs — can cause scheduling to be as big a headache as a pitching jam.

What Stechschulte and the Polar Bears needed was a spark plug. And there he was, out there on the mound, standing at a lanky 6-foot-3, 170 pounds.

“Scotty Beeeeee!” rang from the Northern dugout as the right-hander mangled the ball in his glove, preparing to relieve starter Nate Bye in the sixth inning of game one on Tuesday afternoon. Sophomore Scott Beaton looked in on the plate and began what would tie as his longest appearance of the season.

Beaton entered the game leading 4-2 with BW’s Alex Ludwick on first. Bye had just given up a two-run homer that rocketed over the left field fence, a sign of life from a Baldwin Wallace team that had just two hits coming into the sixth inning.

After a Spencer Badia ground ball advanced Ludwick to second, BW first baseman Lane Niemann singled through to left field to bring the runner home.

As Beaton made his way back to the mound, the Baldwin Wallace dugout cheering loudly behind him, he yelled, ‘Come on!’ while smacking his glove.

He wouldn’t look back.

Beaton went three-up, three-down in the seventh and eighth innings as ONU held onto the one-run lead. Then, in the ninth, things got scary.

Stechschulte trusted Beaton to take the final inning for himself, but it got off to a rough start. He walked Luke Razzante to begin the inning, then a sacrifice bunt pushed the runner to second base. The winning run was at the plate for Baldwin Wallace as Beaton wiped his brow, asked the home plate umpire for a new ball, and reset.

The next Yellow Jacket batter sent a pitch screaming out to left field, back to the warning track, where junior Caleb Thomas was able to track it down on the run.

“That ball is out if the wind isn’t blowing in,” sports information director Tim Glon said while laughing nervously from the Wander Field press box.

Phew. A runner on third with two outs.

And after several stress-filled pitches, Beaton got the final batter, Chase Knodle, to ground out to second base. Game over. Beaton embraced his teammates as they had just won their third game in 72 hours, 4-3.

“I mean, I really didn’t have great command today. Especially with the splitter,” Beaton said after the game. “But I only walked one in four innings and the defense made a lot of good plays behind me so we got the win.”

Beaton gave up just two hits in four innings of work, recording his second save of the season. Ohio Northern won its seventh straight, as the Polar Bears improved to 17-6, 5-2 in the OAC. Baldwin Wallace fell to 17-8, 3-4 in conference play.

The Northern win ended a five-game losing streak to the Yellow Jackets, who feature one of the OAC’s most lethal offenses (they lead the conference in home runs and RBIs).

“It’s huge,” Beaton said. “Baldwin Wallace was ranked as of last week. We were coming off a big sweep of Mount, another great team, and we knew we had to stay hungry and we got game one.”

Beaton and Bye got help on the mound from a Polar Bear club that stayed hot at the plate on Tuesday. They scored 24 runs over two games in Sunday’s doubleheader vs. Mount Union, who boasts two of the conference’s best arms. Northern found success again Tuesday against first-team All-OAC pitcher Evan Lovick, who came into the day tied for second in the conference with five wins.

ONU took a 1-0 lead in the first inning as Luke Klinehoffer scored from third base on a Hayden Shenefield hit that was ruled an error by Lovick.

In the fifth, the Northern bats worked pitch counts to prolong at-bats and wear Lovick down. Another error by Lovick (the Yellow Jackets had four for the game) got Thomas to second and Shenefield to first with no outs. Then, Beaton was brought into the game as a pinch hitter and he came in clutch once again. In just his fourth at-bat all season (the first three came on Sunday), he earned a 3-2 walk to load the bases.

Senior Jason Burkett then grounded out at second, scoring Thomas. Phil Buckingham hit a bloop fly ball out to shallow center field that dropped in for a base hit, plating Shenefield from third. Then, after a double-steal, Jordan Bostater grounded out to first base while scoring Burkett from third. The Polar Bears entered the sixth inning up 4-0 and Beaton took over from there.

Northern won game two as well, 2-0. The Polar Bears have won eight straight, placing them right in the thick of the OAC title hunt. They currently sit in second place at 6-2, one game behind Marietta for first and one game ahead of John Carroll, who ONU will face Saturday, for second.

On a day when Northern needed a shot in the arm, in the midst of a long week, they got one. "Scotty Beeeee," ladies and gentlemen.

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