ASHLAND, Ohio – A wild day at Donges Field ended with a 5-4 walk-off win in 10 innings for the Eagles over GLIAC South foe Lake Erie on Thursday (April 7) afternoon. The teams split the doubleheader with the Storm picking up a 6-0 win in the opener.
The Eagles (13-10, 4-6 GLIAC) had to tie the nightcap in the bottom of the eighth inning to extend the game after the Storm took a 4-3 lead in the top of the frame. Senior outfielder Evan Melendez (Amherst, Ohio/Steele) lifted a single to right field and stole second. With two away, junior first baseman Mitch Klein (Gahanna, Ohio/Lincoln) ripped an RBI single into right-center field to make it 4-4.
Junior right-hander Aaron Hilt (Richmond, Ohio/Edison) struck out Jae Leeworthy to start the ninth inning, but the pitch bounced off the plate to the backstop allowing Leeworthy to reach base. But Hilt stranded him on the basepaths with two more strikeouts and a groundout to end the inning.
The Eagles threatened in the ninth as senior outfielder Ryan Avery (Berea, Ohio/Cuyahoga CC) just missed ending the game with a double off the top of the wall in left to lead off the inning. But before the next pitch was thrown he was retired on a hidden ball trick by Lake Erie shortstop Ryan Rua, eliminating the threat.
Hilt shut down the Storm (10-12, 3-7 GLIAC) in the 10th by stranding Brandon James, who singled with two outs. James was 3-for-5 in the game and had four hits on the day.
The winning rally in the 10th started with Melendez getting hit by a pitch with one out against D.J. Stastny. Patrick Sinko relieved Stastny and Melendez stole second easily. He stole two bases in the game.
After the steal, freshman infielder Tyler Gray (Plain City, Ohio/Jonathan Alder) laced a single to left field, but the ball slipped under James' glove, allowing Melendez to score from second to give the Eagles the walk-off win.
The Eagles trailed early in the game as the Storm picked up two first-inning runs off AU starter Brad Thomas (Orrville, Ohio). AU climbed back with a manufactured run in the second inning on an RBI fielder's choice by senior second baseman Matt McAllester (Westlake, Ohio) that scored freshman catcher Adam Murphy (West Carrollton, Ohio), who singled.
Ashland took a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning off Lake Erie starter Adam Beach. Melendez walked and scored on Gray's one-out double. Sophomore Austin Erb's (Strasburg, Ohio/Hanover) single to center allowed Gray to score from second.
The Eagles held the lead until the seventh, when Matt Toth's two-out single off AU reliever Andrew Pinkelman (Delta, Ohio/Evergreen) tied the game at 3-3.
Over six innings of work, the AU bullpen was solid. Senior Ajay Meyer (Hamler, Ohio/Owens CC) worked the fifth and sixth innings, allowing just one hit and striking out three.
Hilt (2-1) was the winner for the Eagles, tossing the final two innings and allowing just one hit with four strikeouts.
Stastny (0-1) took the loss for the Storm, which is in its first season in the GLIAC. Beach tossed five innings in his start and Doug Fox worked three innings of relief.
Melendez, Gray and Avery had two hits apiece for the Eagles. Melendez and Avery also walked once and Melendez scored three times.
In the opener, the AU lineup was held in check by Lake Erie starter Glenn Stewart (2-0), who remained unbeaten on the season. He was dominant in his complete game shutout, scattering six hits with two strikeouts and no walks.
Junior Eric Vaughan (Delta, Ohio/Owens CC) got the start for the Eagles, but the Storm pounced on him for four runs (two earned) in four innings of work. He allowed six hits and walked one with no strikeouts and took the loss to fall to 1-2. Junior Joe Malfara (Port Clinton, Ohio) tossed three innings of relief, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits with two strikeouts.
The Eagles held Rua, the nation's seventh-leading hitter to a 2-for-7 day, though he also walked twice.
Ashland will now travel to Ohio Dominican on Saturday and Sunday for a four-game series with the Panthers. First pitch on both days is slated for 1 p.m.