ASHLAND, Ohio – For the second straight weekend, the Eagles took three of four from a GLIAC opponent on the road. On Sunday (April 17) afternoon, the Eagles split a doubleheader with Saginaw Valley State, winning the first game, 9-6, and falling in the series finale, 8-7.
The Eagles (21-12, 10-8 GLIAC) swept two games against SVSU (14-18, 9-11 GLIAC) on Friday (April 15).
The Eagles came into the day winners of eight of their last nine games and five straight overall. It took a walk-off rally by the Cardinals in Sunday's nightcap to end the Eagles' winning streak.
With wind chills in the 20s in at the Saginaw Valley Baseball Complex, the Eagles reeled off two runs in the first inning of the opener. AU loaded the bases with the first three batters of the inning and sophomore Austin Erb (Strasburg, Ohio/Hanover) singled home senior Matt McAllester (Westlake, Ohio), who drew a lead-off walk. With the bases loaded and two outs, senior Evan Melendez (Amherst, Ohio/Steele) scored on a wild pitch by SVSU starter Mike Saunders.
The Cardinals took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the inning off AU starter Eric Vaughan (Delta, Ohio/Owens CC) on a one-out three-run home run by Kyle O'Boyle.
The Eagles re-gained the lead in the third inning as Erb singled and senior Ryan Avery (Berea, Ohio/Cuyahoga CC) drew a walk to start the inning. Both moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Sophomore Shayne Herold (LeRoy, N.Y./Genesee CC) grounded to second base to plate Erb and a single by freshman Mickey Manser (Salem, Ohio/West Branch) gave AU a 4-3 lead.
The Cardinals took the lead back in the bottom of the fourth on Drew Woock's RBI single off Vaughan.
In the top of the fifth, the Eagles rallied to take the lead for good with three runs. Herold delivered an RBI single that scored Erb, who started the rally with a lead-off walk. With the bases loaded, sophomore Matt Gundlach (Monroeville, Ohio/Sandusky Perkins) singled through the right side to give AU the 6-5 lead. Herold came around to score on a wild pitch that gave the Eagles the two run lead.
Saginaw Valley State picked up a run in the bottom of the fifth, but the Eagles added insurance runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Manser was hit by a pitch to bring in a run in the sixth inning and Erb's RBI single in the seventh closed the scoring.
Junior Andrew Pinkelman (Delta, Ohio/Evergreen) was outstanding in 2.1 innings of work, allowing just two hits with no walks and a strikeout. The Cardinals did put runners on second and third with one out in the seventh, but Pinkelman got a ground out and a fly out to end the game.
The save was Pinkelman's fourth of the season. Vaughan (3-2) picked up the win, allowing six runs (four earned) on nine hits with one walk and one strikeout in 4.2 innings.
Erb was 4-for-4 and reached base all five times he came to the plate. He scored three runs and drove in two. McAllester was 3-for-4 with a walk, two runs and a stolen base. Manser went 3-for-3 with two RBI.
Saunders (3-4) took the loss for the Cardinals, working 4.1 innings and allowing seven runs (six earned) on nine hits. He walked four and struck out seven. O'Boyle was 2-for-3 with three RBI and two runs scored. Woock, Ryan Ermers and Mike VanAlst were each 2-for-4.
The Eagles wasted no time getting on the board in game two, using two home runs to take a 3-0 lead. McAllester singled to start the game and Melendez powered an offering by Scott Horman over the fence in right-center. Two batters later, Erb slugged a solo home run to right field. It was the second home run of the season for both players. The Eagles have just five home runs this season, and have allowed only six.
Saginaw Valley State got to AU starter Brad Thomas (Orrville, Ohio) for two runs in the bottom of the first. Eric Burt tripled to score Matt Hunt, who walked to lead off the inning. With one out O'Boyle grounded out to shortstop, allowing Burt to score and making it 3-2.
The Eagles actually took a 6-2 lead in the third inning, which started with back-to-back walks to McAllester and Melendez. After a fly out, Erb singled to right to score McAllester from second base. A passed ball allowed both runners to move into scoring position and senior John Kuzio (Marion, Ohio/Pleasant) doubled to right-center, scoring both runs.
The Cardinals chipped away at the AU lead, scoring once in the bottom of the third on a bases-loaded walk by VanAlst. Junior Joe Malfara (Port Clinton, Ohio) replaced Thomas at that point and struck out Dustin Mayner to end the inning.
In the fourth inning, Hunt grounded into a fielder's choice that allowed Cam Wiechmann to score. The Cards tied the game, 6-6, in the fifth on a two-run double by VanAlst.
Ashland re-gained the lead in the sixth inning. Herold singled and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by freshman Adam Murphy (West Carrollton, Ohio). A groundout moved Herold to third and McAllester's single plated him to give AU a 7-6 lead.
Malfara pitched around a pair of hits in the sixth, but couldn't avoid the rally in the bottom of the seventh. VanAlst, who reached base three times in the game, drew a one-out walked. Mitch Vrooman pinch-ran for him and went to second on Mayner's single. Still with just one out, Wiechmann doubled to deep center, scoring both runs and ending the game in walk-off fashion.
Malfara (1-2) took the loss for the Eagles in relief. He worked 3.2 innings, giving up five runs on seven hits with two walks and three strikeouts. Thomas went 2.2 innings and allowed three runs on three hits with two walks and no strikeouts.
Andrew Tidwell (2-0) picked up the win for the Cardinals, tossing the last two innings of the game. He allowed one run on two hits with two strikeouts. Tidwell was the fifth pitcher in the game for the Cardinals and no SVSU hurler worked more than two innings. Aaron Woods and Steven Janes were effective in relief, surrendering just one unearned run in three combined innings.
McAllester reached base all four times he came to the plate, going 2-for-2 with two walks, two runs, an RBI and two stolen bases. Kuzio also reached four times, going 2-for-2 with a walk, a hit-by-pitch, a double and two RBI.
Burt was 3-for-4 with a double, triple, two runs and an RBI for the Cardinals.
After beating the Cardinals three out of four times, the Eagles will look to win another GLIAC series on Wednesday (April 20) when they will play two games and finish another against Tiffin at Donges Field. The teams will resume a suspended game that was started at Tiffin on March 30 with the Eagles leading, 2-0, in the top of the second. The teams will then play two full games to complete their four-game series for the year. AU took game one on March 30, 5-1. The suspended game will begin at 12:45 p.m.