ASHLAND, Ohio – On senior day, it was the Eagles' elder statesmen who provided the biggest excitements at Donges Field. The AU baseball team split a pair of games against Hillsdale on Sunday (May 8). The Eagles won game two, 4-3, but dropped the opener, 2-1.
Center fielder Ryan Avery (Berea, Ohio/Cuyahoga CC) tied game two in the fifth inning with a two-run triple off the wall in right-center that made it a 3-3 game. In the sixth, shortstop Matt McAllester (Westlake, Ohio) gave the Eagles the lead by beating out an infield RBI single.
And in the seventh, left fielder Evan Melendez (Amherst, Ohio/Steele) gunned down the potential tying run at the plate on a sacrifice fly attempt for a double play that ended the game.
The split gave the Eagles (30-19, 19-15 GLIAC) the series win over the Chargers (15-31, 11-21 GLIAC). Ashland is challenging for one of six spots in the NCAA Midwest Regional tournament.
The Eagles took a 1-0 lead in the second inning of game two. Sophomore Shayne Herold (LeRoy, N.Y./Genesee CC) doubled down the left-field line and scored on a single by freshman Wade Kaido (Zanesville, Ohio).
Hillsdale took a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning off AU starter Brad Thomas (Orrville, Ohio). Pat O'Hearn contributed an RBI single that scored two runs and Chris Stephens' RBI double made it 3-1.
Ashland answered right back in the bottom of the inning with two runs to tie the game. Hillsdale starter Michael Keve hit McAllester and Melendez back-to-back with one out. Two batters later, Avery hit a high fly to right-center. O'Hearn, playing center field, ran a long way, but the ball one-hopped the wall, letting both runners score and putting Avery on third with a triple – his second of the season.
Herold singled to start the sixth inning and went to third on a sacrifice bunt and a ground out. Kaido then drew a walk to put runners on the corners for McAllester. He hit a soft grounder to shortstop Jamie McNeill. The fielder charged the ball, but his counterpart was too quick down the baseline and Herold scored from third on the infield hit.
AU reliever Andrew Pinkelman (Delta, Ohio/Evergreen) ran into trouble in the seventh inning as the Chargers tried to tie the game. A single and a sacrifice put a runner at second with one out. Pinkelman got O'Hearn to strike out, but the ball got by AU catcher Chaz McGrain (Valley City, Ohio/Olmsted Falls) and O'Hearn reached with pinch-runner Scott Rhodes going to third.
Stephens then lifted a fly ball to left field at medium depth. Melendez charged on the ball, caught it and fired a perfect one-hopper to McGrain, who successfully blocked the plate and applied the tag on Rhodes to end the game.
The Eagle players streamed out of the dugout to Melendez in left field to celebrate the victory.
Melendez also reached base three times in the game, going 1-for-2 with a walk, a hit-by-pitch and a run scored.
Pinkelman (1-1) picked up the win for the Eagles, allowing just one hit in two innings of relief. He struck out one and walked none.
Thomas and Keve finished with identical pitching lines: five innings, five hits, three earned runs, one walk and one strikeout. Neither pitcher figured in the decision. Jonathan Gregg (2-3) took the loss, giving up the winning run on two hits and a walk.
Herold scored twice for the Eagles and was 2-for-3 and Kaido reached base twice with a single and a walk.
The AU bats struggled in Sunday's opener, collecting just six hits off Hillsdale starter Brent Opland.
The Chargers picked up the first run of the game on three hits in the first inning off AU starter Aaron Hilt (Richmond, Ohio/Edison).
The junior right-hander settled in after that, allowing just three hits the rest of the way and retiring seven in a row until the fourth.
The Eagles tied the game in the fourth inning. Senior Mitch Klein (Gahanna, Ohio/Lincoln) and Herold had back-to-back singles to put runners on the corners with one out. Junior Ethan Houck (Fort Wayne, Ind./Glen Oaks CC) followed with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly that scored Klein for the tying run.
The Chargers bounced back in the fifth inning with some help from the AU defense. Adam Connell drew a one-out walk and stole second. The throw short-hopped McAllester and bounced into short right field, allowing Connell to go to third base. The next batter, O'Hearn, delivered a sacrifice fly to center field that proved to be the difference in the game.
The Eagles did not threaten in the last three innings for a chance to tie the game.
Hilt (5-4) took the tough-luck loss, despite allowing just two runs (one earned) on six hits. He walked two and struck out five. Hilt lowered his season ERA to 1.40, which now qualifies as the top ERA on the team. Opland (5-3) earned the win, allowing just one run on six hits. He walked two and struck out one.
Melendez was 1-for-2 with a walk and Herold had two hits. He finished 4-for-6 on the day. Jeff Scarpelli was the only Charger with two hits in the game.
The Eagles will now travel to Chillicothe, Ohio for the GLIAC Tournament, which begins on Thursday and runs through Saturday (May 12-14). It is a double-elimination tournament. Ashland is scheduled to play Wayne State on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Grand Valley State and Saginaw Valley State also qualified for the tournament and will play at 3 p.m. Thursday.
Fans can get to the GLIAC Tournament web page HERE.