ASHLAND, Ohio – The Eagles entered this weekend's four-game set against visiting Saginaw Valley State knowing they needed to win the series to make some noise in the GLIAC.
The noise waves can now be heard reverberating around the league after the AU baseball team finished a four-game sweep over the Cardinals at Donges Field with 3-1 and 7-6 wins on Sunday (April 15) afternoon. Game 2 went eight innings.
The Eagles are now in a tie with Lake Erie for second place in the GLIAC. Both have 14-6 records in league play. Grand Valley State, which has won 11 in a row, holds a one-game lead in the conference with a 16-6 mark.
The Eagles' string of terrific starting pitching continued in Game 1 with junior Zach Botjer (Deshler, Ohio/Sinclair CC) on the mound.
The right-hander retired the first eight batters he faced before allowing a two-out double in the third. Five of the first eight outs he recorded came via a strikeout.
Junior first baseman Austin Erb (Mechanicsville, Va./Hanover) ripped his second home run of the season on an 0-2 pitch in the first inning to give the Eagles a 1-0 lead.
The Eagles added another run in the third inning on a solo blast by freshman second baseman Giancarlo Saia (Mentor, Ohio/Lake Catholic). It was Saia's first career home run.
In the fifth, freshman shortstop Austin Walts (Amherst, Ohio/Steele) singled and scored when Saia doubled and SVSU center fielder Ryan Ermers misplayed the ball in the outfield.
Botjer was in control from the start of the game and was only touched up in the seventh for a run on three hits. In the first six innings, he allowed just two hits and one walk.
Botjer (5-3) earned the win and lowered his ERA to 2.17. He struck out an AU season-high 12 batters in the game, which was his third complete game of the season.
Saginaw Valley State starter Carson Beauchaine pitched well, but fell to 2-3 on the season. He allowed three runs on six hits in six innings. He struck out eight and did not walk a batter.
Saia was the only Eagle with two hits in the game. Jason Potts was 2-for-3 with an RBI for the Cardinals.
In Game 2, the Eagles got on the board with four runs in the third inning. Freshman outfielder Adam Urbania (Mentor, Ohio/Lake Catholic) singled and eventually scored on an error. Saia and Erb each had a sacrifice fly in the inning and junior John Broll (Mississauga, Ont./Genesee CC) finished the scoring with an RBI single to center field.
SVSU got on the board in the top of the fourth on a leadoff home run by Cam Wiechmann off AU starter Shayne Herold (LeRoy, N.Y./Genesee CC).
Ashland (22-12, 14-6 GLIAC) got that run back in the fourth inning. A walk by Walts and a single by sophomore catcher Chaz McGrain (Valley City, Ohio/Olmsted Falls) put runners on the corners with one out. AU head coach John Schaly called for McGrain to steal second. McGrain got caught in a rundown and Walts slid in safely after he broke from third.
Chris Perkovich hit a solo home run for the Cardinals in the fifth and SVSU added another run in the sixth with the help of an AU passed ball and an error to cut the Eagles' lead to 5-3.
Saginaw Valley State (15-17, 11-9 GLIAC) scored three times in the seventh inning to take a 6-5 lead. With the bases loaded and no outs, the Cardinals drew a hit-by-pitch and a walk to tie the game.
Senior Joe Malfara (Port Clinton, Ohio) came on to pitch, but Andy Orr got a sacrifice fly to give the Cardinals their first lead of the day. Malfara retired the next two hitters to escape the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, sophomore outfielder Wade Kaido (Zanesville, Ohio) tripled to right-center and scored on Erb's RBI single up the middle to tie the game at 6-6. Sophomore third baseman Tyler Gray (Plain City, Ohio/Jonathan Alder) singled to put runners on the corners with one out.
Broll followed with a chopper into the hole on the right side. Perkovich, SVSU's shortstop, made a great play reaching up to stab the ball out of the air and throw out Erb at home in one motion to preserve the tie. Mike Schaaf retired the final batter of the frame to send the game to extra innings.
Malfara set the Cardinals down in order in the top of the eighth, getting a strikeout in the process.
With one out Walts and McGrain singled to put runners at first and second. Saia followed by ripping the first pitch he saw into left field as Walts motored home for the winning run, sliding in just ahead of the throw.
Malfara (1-0) picked up the win for the Eagles, tossing a perfect two innings in relief. Herold pitched well in his start, allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits in 5.2 innings. He walked three and struck out three.
Schaaf (1-2) took the loss for Saginaw Valley State. Colin Coulter was SVSU's starter. He allowed five runs on six hits in 3.1 innings. He struck out three and walked two.
McGrain led the AU offense with three hits. Saia, Kaido, Urbania and Walts and two hits apiece. Perkovich and Wiechmann were the only Cardinals with two hits.
The Eagles will look for their winning ways to continue on Wednesday (April 18). They open a six-game road trip with a doubleheader at Tiffin, starting at 2 p.m.