ASHLAND, Ohio – With the price of gasoline nearing $4 per gallon, people might prefer that the Ashland University pitching staff's ERA would suffice for the price of gas.
With its pitching-dominated sweep at Saginaw Valley State on Friday (April 15), the Eagles' staff ERA stands at 3.12. This was the result of 2-1 and 5-0 wins over the Cardinals at the chilly Saginaw Valley Baseball Complex. Game one was an eight-inning affair. The game two victory was the 900th of AU head coach John Schaly's career.
Fellow right-handers senior Ajay Meyer (Hamler, Ohio/Owens CC) and junior Aaron Hilt (Richmond, Ohio/Edison) were nearly untouchable in 15 innings of work on Friday. If both pitchers continue at the rate they're going, both would finish in the top four in the AU record books for single-season ERA. Meyer's is now 0.84 while Hilt's is 1.04.
In game one, Meyer surrendered an unearned run in the sixth inning that allowed the Cardinals (13-16, 8-9 GLIAC) to tie the game. It eventually went into extra innings, but the Eagles scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning.
Senior Evan Melendez (Amherst, Ohio/Steele) drew a leadoff walk and moved to second on a groundout. Sophomore Austin Erb (Strasburg, Ohio/Hanover) singled to put runners on the corners. The next hitter, junior Mitch Klein (Gahanna, Ohio/Lincoln), grounded to the drawn in SVSU shortstop, who fired home to retire Melendez trying to score.
With two down and runners again at the corners, senior Ryan Avery (Berea, Ohio/Cuyahoga CC) drove in Erb with a single to right field to make it 2-1.
Meyer continued his work from there, getting Matt Hunt to ground out for the first out. He struck out Brandon Schwanz, but he reached on a passed ball. Meyer eliminated any threat by striking out Ryan Ermers and Kyle O'Boyle to end the game.
Meyer (7-1) struck out 12 – one shy of his career high. He allowed just five hits and walked one over his eighth complete game of the season. The 6-foot-6 Meyer has completed every start he has made this season. It was Hilt's fourth straight appearance without allowing an earned run and his second straight shutout in as many starts.
The Eagles (20-11, 9-7 GLIAC) took a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Senior Matt McAllester (Westlake, Ohio) drew a one-out walk, stole second and went to third on Melendez's single to center. Freshman Tyler Gray (Plain City, Ohio/Jonathan Alder) followed with an RBI single into right-center that plated McAllester.
No Eagle finished with more than one hit, though Melendez reached twice with a single and a walk. McAllester was 0-for-3, but walked, stole a base and scored a run.
Saginaw Valley State starter Carson Beauchaine (3-3) took the loss, despite allowing just the two runs on five hits. He struck out nine and walked two. Hunt was the only Cardinal with multiple hits, going 3-for-4 with a run scored.
In game two, Hilt picked up where Meyer left off, dominating the Cardinals' lineup by allowing just three hits and two walks over seven innings. He struck out five.
It was Hilt's third straight appearance without allowing a run. He has earned the win in each of those appearances, which included two starts.
Hilt (4-1) ran into trouble in the second inning as the Cardinals put runners on second and third with one out. He escaped without a run scoring by getting Dustin Mayner to ground to Gray at third base. Gray fired home to retire O'Boyle, who singled to start the inning. Hilt finished the inning by forcing Mike VanAlst to ground out to first base.
The 6-foot-3 Hilt also pitched around a leadoff double in the fourth inning with no damage done.
The Eagles took the lead for Hilt in the first inning as McAllester reached second on an error to start the game. Melendez bunted McAllester to third and the AU second baseman scored on a sacrifice fly by Gray.
Ashland manufactured another run in the third inning. Sophomore Matt Gundlach (Monroeville, Ohio/Sandusky Perkins) singled on a bunt to lead off and moved to second on a sacrifice by McAllester. After Melendez flew out, Gray walked and Erb singled in Gundlach on a single down the right-field line to make it 2-0.
The Eagles put the game away in the sixth inning with the help of three of SVSU's five errors in the game. AU scratched out three runs, the first coming on an RBI bunt single by McAllester that scored Avery, who singled to lead off the inning, and sophomore Shayne Herold (LeRoy, N.Y./Genesee CC), who reached on an error.
McAllester, who went to second on an error on his bunt, stole third base and scored on a throwing error by SVSU catcher Chet LaFave.
Gray was the only Eagle with two hits, including a double. He also drew a walk and had an RBI. Avery was 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored. The Eagles had five sacrifice hits in the game.
O'Boyle was 2-for-3 for the Cardinals, but they had just one hit from the other eight spots in the lineup. Colin Coulter (0-4) was the victim of the defense behind him, allowing five runs (one earned) on seven hits. He walked three and struck out five in the defeat.
The teams will take Saturday (April 16) with rain forecasted to move into the area. They will resume the series on Sunday (April 17) with a doubleheader that is set to begin at 12 p.m.