Underdogs No More
May 19, 2017
The Quakers baseball team accomplished something no team in Earlham athletics history had on May 18 as EC opened the NCAA Division III Mideast Regional Tournament with a 6-2 win over the College of Wooster at Washington, Pennsylvania.
No Earlham team had ever won an NCAA Division III Tournament contest until the No. 8 Quakers upset the No. 1 Scots on the campus of Washington & Jefferson College (W&J). The Quakers will take on the host Presidents at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
Note: Earlham joined the NCAA in the fall of 1984, but held joint NCAA/NAIA membership until the fall of 1989.
The Quakers NCAA tournament victory is only latest example of Earlham exceeding expectations this academic year. In September, a team of Earlhamites beat out teams from Ivy League schools and top international business programs to win the $1M Hult Prize, the world's top student competition for the social good. Later in the year little known scientist Margaret Hamilton '58 joined celebrities like Michael Jordan, Bruce Springsteen and Ellen Degeneres in winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Then Hashem Abu Sham'a '17, who grew up in a refugee camp, became the first Palestinian to be awarded a Rhodes Scholarship. Earlham celebrated the end of the academic year by announcing The EPIC Advantage, a guarantee of funded internships or research opportunities for every student — an opportunity that is virtually unparalleled in American Higher Education.
"It feels great to be the first program to win an NCAA Division III Tournament game," head coach Steve Sakosits said. "Our expectation is to win, and everyone buys into that."
The Earlham offense remained patient in the early going as the Quakers drew five walks off of Wooster starter Michael Houdek in his 2.2 innings pitched. Three of those walks came in the second inning including a bases-loaded walk to junior Kendal Baker plated Earlham's first run. Houdek limited the damage, however, as a fielder's choice and a groundout ended the Quakers' threat.
Wooster, which entered the game as the top scoring offense in the country, quickly took the lead to open the bottom of the second as Garrett Crum crushed a two-run shot to center field. Trailing 2-1, senior Brennan Laird opened the top of the third by drawing a walk, and after he advanced to second on a wild pitch, senior Eric Elkus singled to center field to tie the game 2-2.
Another wild pitch advanced Elkus 90 feet, and fellow senior Cody Krumlauf gave Earlham a 3-2 lead with a single to left center.
Senior Howie Smith sat down the Scots in order in the bottom of the third, and seniors Nate Lynch and Laird set the table for Elkus in the top of the fourth. The Edgewood, Kentucky, native then belted his ninth home run of the season over the center field wall of Ross Memorial Park to give Earlham a 6-2 advantage. The blast was Elkus' 25th career home run, tying Ryan Hayes' (2011-14) career record.
"It means a lot to me to be able to help out the team," Elkus said. "It's cool to achieve the record, but we were just trying to put up some runs for Howie [Smith]. He never needs a lot."
Wooster threatened to score in the sixth as two runner reached base in the sixth, but a lineout to center field kept the Scots off the scoreboard.
Smith was relieved by sophomore Walter Talcott, who got out of bases loaded jam in the eighth inning by inducing a groundout. Earlham nearly stretched its lead in in the ninth after a briefly lightning delay, but freshman Isaiah Shake was thrown out at home plate.
There would be no comeback for No. 1 Wooster as Talcott gave No. 8 Earlham the victory by retiring the Scots in order in the ninth. The win was Earlham's second over Wooster (the other came in 1996) in 29 games.
Smith won its 23rd career contest and ninth of the season, allowing seven hits and striking out three in seven innings.
"I felt good in my bullpen session and I have confidence against anyone," Smith said. "I was able to locate three pitches in the zone all game and adjust to them [Wooster] hunting fastballs."
Elkus finished 2-4 with four RBIs while Laird also had two hits with seven other Quakers tallying one hit. Earlham also drew eight walks compared to just one for the Scots.
Garrett Crum, Jacob Stuursma, and Jake Fling all had two hits for Wooster.
"I thought our team played very loose today," Sakosits said. "We were obviously excited about the opportunity to play in our first NCAA Division III Regional, but we weren't overwhelmed by the opportunity."
The Quakers (30-12) hit the 30-win plateau for the first time in program history. Earlham, which held the top offense in the country to two runs, will need to hold the second-best offense in the nation (W&J) to improve to 2-0 tomorrow. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.
— EC —
Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We view athletics and other extracurricular activities as an essential part of our integrative and collaborative approach to education. We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success.
Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mitch Blankespoor is director of sports marketing and communications at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1795 and email@example.com.