Eliot Barrengos, Sports Editor
The Fighting Scots baseball team began conference play in earnest last weekend with a doubleheader sweep of Oberlin. The Scots returned to Art Murray Field for just the second time since their season-opening doubleheader split with Grove City. Saturday’s doubleheader against Wittenberg University will mark the first time the Scots will play with their fellow students in attendance since prior to spring break, as well as their first taste of conference action in their own house. The Scots, who sit three games below the benchmark of .500 with a 7-10 record, are working on flipping the script on their season after an underwhelming spring break trip to Florida. The Scots, who entered the season as the 22nd ranked team in the NCAA D-III college baseball, struggled to put together a complete performance in Florida, going 4-9 over a 15-game stretch, and losing five consecutive games to complete the slate.
With conference play beginning last Sunday, April 2, the Scots needed to right the ship if they had any intention of winning the NCAC. After struggling to get the pitching and the bats clicking at the right time for nearly two weeks, Wooster found its groove on Sunday, holding the Yeomen to just two runs over seven innings and plating 12 of their own to roll to a game one win. In the second affair, the Scots bats stayed hot, rounding the bases 12 times again and giving the pitching staff the breathing room needed to lock down the W.
On the mound, Corey Knauf ’24 continued what has been a dominant season on the bump. Knauf, who has started four games and climbed to the top of the Wooster depth chart, has hurled 25 and two-thirds innings to the tune of a 2.10 ERA and an average of 5.96 strikeouts per nine innings. The junior anchored the Scots on Sunday, throwing a seven inning complete game and earning the win in game one. He was followed by Ryan Sullivan ’23 in game two, who tossed seven and two-thirds innings of five-hit baseball while yielding just two walks.
The Voice reached out to Knauf to ask about what has led to such success for him personally on the mound and Sunday’s game plan. The objective as always is to stay in the strike zone and not allow too many free passes and Knauf elaborated further, saying “the biggest thing we talk about as a staff is being aggressive, and when we stick to that plan is when we are at our best. For Oberlin, [we] especially knew we needed to set the tone.”
They did just that, allowing the offense the chance to find their mojo without the pressure of having to dig their way out of an early hole. Coach Barry Craddock commented on the impressive performance from the two starters saying “Corey and Ryan have pitched great all year. They are built up now, pitch-count wise, so we should see them go deeper into games which will help our bullpen depth as well.”
As for his own successes, Wooster’s ace credits a fearless mindset and a solid defensive infield behind him. Knauf added that, “the biggest thing for me is limiting walks, and that goes with attacking the hitters and trusting my stuff.” The biggest difference maker might be the development of a third pitch – a changeup that Knauf says he developed over the summer that “has allowed me to have a really solid three pitch mix to keep the hitters even more off balance.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Scots have continued to emphasize a patient approach, and as Coach Craddock put it “a stronger willingness to hit the ball the other way” as Wooster looks ahead at a 25-game stretch that will feature a bevy of concrete appointments and a chance to apply the lessons they learned down south. Coach Craddock believes that an ability to hit the ball to the opposite field “will serve us very well the rest of the season, as long as we can stick to it.”
As for Sunday’s games, the Scots took advantage of Oberlin’s inability to find the strike zone to post a four-run fifth inning. Wooster stayed relentless when third baseman Ryan Kramer ’26 demolished a three-run homer to put the game out of reach. In game two, catcher Colin Leslie ’26 was the Scots spark plug, starting the scoring with a two-run triple. Leslie, who has come into his own in his first collegiate season, also doubled in game one. The first-year catcher responded to a request for comment saying “It feels great to be playing an important role on the team. We have had six months to get really close as a team, so it is really rewarding to get a big hit or make a big play on defense and feel like I am helping the team. It feels like we are all playing for each other.” Leslie, who caught both Sullivan and Knauf, also remarked on the leadership of the two upperclassmen pitchers saying “Corey and Ryan…have been super dependable all year. Both of them also set great examples in their preparation. They are consistent…and set a great tone for the rest of the pitching staff and the team as a whole. It’s a blast to catch for both of them because I know that they will always find a way to give the team a chance to win, which they obviously did on Sunday. They are great leaders.”
The Wooster baseball team has an upcoming doubleheader at home against Wittenberg University on April 8.