CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Now the waiting game begins. The Eagles are now waiting to see if they will earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament after losing to Saginaw Valley State, 14-7, in the GLIAC Baseball Tournament on Friday (May 13) afternoon at V.A. Memorial Stadium. The NCAA announcement will come Sunday (May 15) evening.
The Eagles fell behind early in Friday's game and never recovered, having to play catch-up the whole way. Each time the Eagles scored, the Cardinals responded in the next half-inning.
Ashland's pitching staff allowed a season-high 20 hits in the game. It was just the second time this season the Eagles allowed double-digit runs.
Junior right-hander Aaron Hilt (Richmond, Ohio/Edison) retired the side in order in the top of the first inning, but was tagged for two runs in the second inning. Chet LaFave lifted a one-out RBI double that ticked out of the glove of right fielder Ethan Houck (Fort Wayne, Ind./Glen Oaks CC). Kyle O'Boyle, who was hit by a pitch to start the inning, came around to score on the hit. After a walk, Dustin Mayner singled to left field for Saginaw's second run.
The Eagles (30-21) cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the inning. First baseman Austin Erb (Strasburg, Ohio/Hanover) roped a triple that fell just inside the right-field line and he came around to score on a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Mickey Manser (Salem, Ohio/West Branch). The Eagles had two more hits in the inning, but SVSU starter Mike Saunders killed the rally by getting a groundout.
The Cardinals (25-23) broke the game open in the third inning. Three hits brought one run home. With two down, first baseman Mike VanAlst hit a three-run home run to the short gap in right-center to give Saginaw Valley State a 6-1 lead. A walk and a single put two more runners on base, but reliever Brad Thomas (Orrville, Ohio) got Matt Hunt to ground out to end the inning.
The AU bats climbed back in the game by batting around and scoring three times in the fifth inning. Freshman catcher Chaz McGrain (Valley City, Ohio/Olmsted Falls) drew a walk with one out. Saunders had retired the last eight batters he had faced.
Sophomore shortstop Matt Gundlach (Monroeville, Ohio/Sandusky Perkins) singled and senior second baseman Matt McAllester (Westlake, Ohio) was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Senior Evan Melendez (Amherst, Ohio/Steele) followed by drawing a walk to make it 6-2. Freshman Tyler Gray (Plain City, Ohio/Jonathan Alder) then knocked a sacrifice fly.
Erb was hit by a pitch to re-load the bases and senior Ryan Avery (Berea, Ohio/Cuyahoga CC) followed with an infield single to cut the Cardinals' lead to 6-4.
Thomas retired the first two batters he faced in the sixth, but three straight hits, capped by a two-run double by Ryan Ermers extended the Saginaw Valley State lead to 8-4.
The Eagles got a run back in the seventh inning. Melendez drew a one-out walk and scooted to third on a hit-and-run single to right by Gray. Erb followed with a double down the right-field line that scored Melendez. Gray came around third, but was gunned down on a relay throw by VanAlst for the second out. A passed ball moved Erb to third, but Avery grounded out to end the inning.
The Cardinals added three more runs in the ninth inning to make it 14-5.
The Eagles tacked on two runs in the bottom of the ninth on four hits. Erb and Avery each had RBI singles.
Hilt (5-5) took the loss, allowing six runs on seven hits and two walks in 2.2 innings. It was just the fourth outing out of 10 this season in which he has even allowed an earned run. Thomas worked 4.1 innings of relief and allowed four runs on eight hits. He walked one and struck out two.
Saunders (5-4) earned the win, going 6.1 innings and allowing five runs on six hits with three walks and four strikeouts. Justin Drzewicki picked up his sixth save, pitching the final 2.2 innings.
Erb and Avery had two RBI apiece and Erb finished 3-for-4 with a run scored. Melendez was 1-for-3 with two walks, two runs and an RBI.
Four Cardinals had three hits, including Ermers and O'Boyle, who had four RBI each. O'Boyle scored four runs and drew a walk. VanAlst was 2-for-5 with three RBI and Chet LaFave was 3-for-5 with two RBI and a run scored. Drew Woock had three hits and two runs and Eric Burt had two hits and three runs scored.