ASHLAND, Ohio – Over the last several games the AU offense has struggled to string hits together and score runs. On Saturday (April 9) afternoon, Ashland starting pitchers Ajay Meyer (Hamler, Ohio/Owens CC) and Aaron Hilt (Richmond, Ohio/Edison) made sure that any offense would be enough for the Eagles to win at Ohio Dominican.
Both pitchers tossed three-hit, complete game shutouts against the Panthers in 3-0 and 8-0 wins in Columbus to take the first two of a four-game weekend series. Neither pitcher walked a batter.
The Eagles (15-10, 6-6 GLIAC) provided all of Meyer's run support in the second inning of the opener. Senior Ryan Avery (Berea, Ohio/Cuyahoga CC) walked and junior Mitch Klein (Gahanna, Ohio/Lincoln) singled to start the inning. Junior Ethan Houck (Fort Wayne, Ind./Glen Oaks CC) singled on a sacrifice attempt to load the bases and Avery scored on a fielder's choice by freshman Chaz McGrain (Valley City, Ohio/Olmsted Falls).
Meyer (6-1) took over from there, allowing a single hit in each of the next three innings, but not allowing any runners to reach second base. He struck out three batters in the game. The right-hander has completed all seven games that he has started and lowered his season ERA to 0.98. Opponents are hitting just .178 off the 6-foot-6 Meyer.
Alex Borgan (2-3) suffered the loss for the Panthers, despite turning in a quality outing. He worked all seven innings and allowed three runs on seven hits. He struck out five and walked three.
Klein was the only Eagle with two hits in the game, but Avery and Melendez also reached base twice. Sophomore Austin Erb's (Strasburg, Ohio/Hanover) double was the only extra-base hit in the game.
Hilt took over where Meyer left off in the nightcap. He allowed just three singles and walked two batters, but struck out a season-high nine.
The Eagles opened the scoring with three runs in the first inning. Melendez started the rally with a lead-off double. After Houck lined out, freshman Tyler Gray (Plain City, Ohio/Jonathan Alder) drew a walk and Avery doubled home Melendez to open the scoring. Klein brought home Gray on a sacrifice fly and sophomore Shayne Herold's (LeRoy, N.Y./Genesee CC) double scored Avery to make it 3-0.
Hilt ran into a minor jam in the bottom of the second inning when an error and a walk put runners on first and second. A wild pitch moved the runners up with two outs, but Hilt forced Evan Shaw into a groundout to end the threat.
The Eagles tacked on two more runs in the fifth inning as Gray and Avery each contributed two-out RBI hits. In the sixth, McAllester's single scored Klein, who singled to start the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. McAllester then wreaked havoc on the bases, stealing second and third before scoring on a throwing error by catcher JT Feldcamp.
Three singles in the seventh inning, the last one an RBI infield hit by Avery, scored the Eagles final run of the game.
Hilt (2-1) threw the fourth shutout of his career and his seventh complete game. Avery and Melendez were each 3-for-4. Melendez scored twice and Avery drove in three runs. Gray was 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, two runs and an RBI.
Left-hander Zane Miller (1-3) took the loss for the Panthers, allowing seven runs on nine hits in 5.1 innings pitched. He walked one and struck out two.
The Eagles were 5-for-5 stealing bases on the day. The Panthers (9-14, 6-6 GLIAC) did not record an extra-base hit on Saturday.
The teams will continue their four-game series on Sunday (April 9) afternoon. The doubleheader is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.