Wesleyan bats come up big in series win over Jefferson

JEFFERSON -- Just call Brian Krehmeyer clairvoyant.

After his team earned a split of a doubleheader against Jefferson on Wednesday, the Wesleyan head coach said whichever offense imposed its will in Game 3 would taste victory.

In the decisive contest Thursday, it was the Wolves' bats that came up bigger, knocking off the highlytouted Dragons on the road 9-4 to win their second-round playoff series.

When asked about his prophetic proclamation, Krehmeyer chuckled.

"I've been in a few three-game series before, and the nature of it is asking your pitcher to go out there and just keep it close," he said. "But ultimately it's also going up against their Game 3 pitcher, too. You were just hoping for a timely hit."

The Wolves (20-10) then took the field and did just that.

They didn't tame the Dragons with a single blow or a single big inning. Rather, it was many small cuts of the bat that ended Jefferson's (26-4) season. Wesleyan scored one or more runs in each of the first five innings, but no frame saw more than three Wolves cross the plate.

The continued onslaught was critical given the narrative of the twin bill on Wednesday, which saw Wesleyan grab leads in both games before Jefferson staged comebacks.

With that knowledge foremost on their minds, Krehmeyer said he didn't have to say anything to his team.

"The guys knew. That was kind of the cry when they came into the dugout," he said. "'We've got to keep the pressure on, keep the foot on the accelerator.'"

Perhaps an even more impressive measure of Wesleyan's efficiency in the batter's box was its strikeout total: one, a stat that delighted Krehmeyer.

"You ask your hitters to put it in play," he said. "One of our phrases is, 'Good things happen when you put the ball on the ground.' And I think today (Jefferson) made a few errors (and) gave us a few gifts that they didn't make in the first two games of the series. We were beneficiaries of that."

While the Wolves were hitting on all cylinders at the plate, it was a different story on the mound in the first two innings.

Starter Trey Mannion allowed three runs in the bottom of the first inning, turning a 2-0 Wesleyan lead into a 3-2 deficit. After scratching through one more inning, Krehmeyer pulled Mannion in favor of Andrew Sauer in the bottom of the third.

It was a decision that paid off handsomely for the Wolves.

Sauer shut down the potent Dragons offense in five innings of work, giving up just one run and two hits to go along with five strikeouts. Sauer's last strikeout was the exclamation point for his performance, as he fanned Jefferson's Drew Carson to record the series' final out.

Krehmeyer, not surprisingly, was overjoyed with Sauer's play.

"He's very eager. He's got a lot of exuberance," Krehmeyer said. "So yesterday was his first taste of playoff baseball. He was pretty worked up and tried to overthrow a little bit. He's a guy that comes to me every day and says, 'Coach, I'm ready to pitch.' ... We were fortunate that Andrew could get his playoff jitters out of him last night, and he just pitched like a champion tonight."

Sauer's gem and their prosperity at the plate have the Wolves squarely in the championship hunt. With the second round victory, Wesleyan moves on to the Class AA quarterfinals, where it will take on Benedictine on Tuesday in Savannah.

And in a display of candor rarely seen from a coach, Krehmeyer admitted the final eight is a place not even he had imagined for this team.

"To be honest with you, I didn't know we were going to make it this far," he said. "So we're happy that the train continues to roll."