KENT, Ohio - Tiffin baseball's incredible month of May ended on Saturday afternoon, as they fell twice to Ashland 7-6 and 15-5 in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional 1 Championship.
What an amazing run it was. After starting the season 2-17, the Dragons went 18-12 from March 19th through the end of the regular season. It took a 3-1 series win over Walsh in the final weekend of conference play to clinch a spot in the GMAC Championship, with TU earning a berth as the seven-seed. The Dragons did not let that ranking define them, shocking #2 Ohio Dominican, #3 Trevecca Nazarene, and #5 Kentucky Wesleyan twice to claim their first conference title and advance to the NCAA postseason for the first time in program history.
Tiffin was not done yet, though, entering the Midwest Regional as the eight-seed and knocking off top-seed Ashland and five-seed Bellarmine, making it a 24-12 run over a month and a half. However, the magic would run out in the final, dropping two in a row to the Eagles to end an eight-game win streak that is the highest in program history since joining Division II.
The month of May in particular was about as good of baseball as any team could hope to play, as the Dragons went 9-3, batted .347 as a team, and averaged 8.8 runs per game and 13 hits per game. A couple of Tiffin single-season records were broken as Cody Orr recorded 88.1 innings pitched and Michael Ross made 24 appearances on the mound. Orr also tallied the second-most strikeouts pitching in a season with 69 and tied for the second-most triples with five. John Heckman had a season to remember from the plate as a senior, as he finishes the year in a tie for first with 23 doubles, tie for second with 75 hits, second with 64 RBI, and setting a new single-season mark of 131 total bases.
In the first game, the Dragons jumped out to a 5-1 lead after three innings, scoring all five of their runs with two outs. After a groundout and a strikeout in the bottom of the second, Aaron Gonzalez and Kole Klasic were both hit by pitches and Cody Orr walked to load the bases. Brayden Callihan stepped up clutch, poking a single up the middle to score two and give Tiffin the lead. Zach Campbell followed with a liner to the gap in right-center, also scoring two and increasing the advantage to three.
In the next frame, Nich Green doubled to put a runner in scoring position, and was brought home on Gonzalez's opposite field RBI single. The Eagles would chip away and eventually take the lead, though, tallying one in the fifth and four in the sixth to go up 6-5.
Tiffin answered right back, as Jack Dennis tied the game in the bottom of the sixth with single that scored Campbell. Ashland scraped together the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth, though, and were able to hold on for the 7-6 win.
Jake Monnin started the game for the Dragons, going five innings and allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits. Michael Ross threw the final 3.2 innings, giving up two runs on three hits. Campbell, Heckman, and Dennis each had two hits for TU.
In game two, the Ashland jumped on Tiffin early, tallying three in the first, two in the second, and five in the third to go up 10-2 after three innings. The Dragons were unable to score from the fourth to eighth innings, and the Eagles tallied five more to win 15-5. Before it was over in top of the ninth though, all three Tiffin seniors recorded hits in their final at-bats. Callihan and Dennis both singled, while Heckman drilled a three-run homer.
TU finishes the year 26-31, but undoubtedly goes out with one of the most memorable seasons for any sport at Tiffin University.