ASHLAND, Ohio – Winds gusting out to right field at 40 miles per hour changed the game plans for both baseball teams at Donges Field on Wednesday (March 28) afternoon.
The new game plan: Take aim at the right field fence.
Ashland used the outgoing winds to a doubleheader sweep over Tiffin, winning Game 1, 15-11, and Game 2, 10-2.
The 15 runs scored by the Eagles (12-8, 4-2 GLIAC) matched a season high and they pounded out 27 hits in the two games.
The offense was led by junior catcher John Broll (Mississagua, Ont./Genesee CC), who was 6-for-9 on the day with two home runs, two doubles, 11 RBI and five runs scored. He hit a grand slam and a two-run home run in Wednesday's second game. He had four hits, including two doubles and five RBI in Game 1.
"Johnny really swung the bat well and he was on top of the ball with line drives," said AU head coach John Schaly.
Junior third baseman Tyler Gray (Plain City, Ohio/Jonathan Alder) lifted a pair of home runs into the right field jet stream in the second inning of Game 1, driving in three runs.
"The wind was definitely a factor today, but you've still got to get it on the barrel," said Schaly, who joked that Gray took advantage of the wind.
Sophomore outfielder Wade Kaido (Zanesville, Ohio) had four hits in the twinbill.
The Eagles trailed Game 1, 1-0, going into the bottom of the second inning, but pounded out eight runs in the bottom of the second inning, including both of Gray's homers.
All but one player in the AU lineup in Game 1 registered at least a hit and six players had multiple hits.
"That middle of the order is very capable of driving in a lot of runs. We feel we've got a chance to be a good offensive team, but we've got a lot of work ahead of us," Schaly said.
Neither team stopped hitting after AU opened the flood gates in the second inning. Each team scored at least a run in every half-inning through the end of the game.
Tiffin (7-12, 2-4 GLIAC) was helped by six defensive errors made by the Eagles – the most for an AU squad since March 17, 2009 when they made seven against Kent State.
The Eagles stayed on top by picking up two runs in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
Junior right-hander Brad Thomas (Orrville, Ohio) pitched well enough to earn his fourth victory of the season to improve to 4-0. He surrendered eight runs (five earned) on 13 hits in 4.1 innings pitched. Fellow junior righty Zach Botjer (Deshler, Ohio/Sinclair CC) racked up five strikeouts in a two-inning save in Game 1.
Tiffin starter Eric Klepper (1-2) took the loss, allowing eight runs on seven hits in two innings.
The second game was much tamer in terms of defensive miscues and keeping the ball in the park, with the exception of Broll.
With the game scoreless in the bottom of the third, the Eagles loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. Broll stepped into a 1-1 pitch by Jordan Liette and drove it out to right center for a grand slam to give the Eagles a 4-0 lead.
From there, senior right-hander Aaron Hilt (Richmond, Ohio/Edison) took over. He worked four scoreless innings to start the game before the Dragons touched him up for single runs in the fifth and sixth innings. He improved to 4-2 with the win.
"Under these conditions with the wind blowing out I thought he did a great job," Schaly said. "That was good to see for Aaron to help him get some confidence as well."
The Eagles added three runs in each of the fifth and sixth innings. Gray delivered a two-out, two-run single in the fifth, followed by an RBI hit by freshman Kyle Vozar (Hinckley, Ohio/Medina Highland). In the sixth, Walts singled to start the inning and eventually scored on a passed ball. Broll capped the AU rally with a two-run shot to right field.
"A lot of hitting is confidence, so hopefully today will spur us on to better things. We feel we're a good offensive team and hopefully today will get us going," Schaly said.
Schaly was much more pleased with his team's defensive focus in the second game of the doubleheader.
"We came back and played good defense, an errorless game. It's hard enough getting three outs, you don't want to give them more than three," he said.
The Eagles now have a tough four-game set this weekend at nationally-ranked Grand Valley State. First pitch on Saturday (March 31) is set for 1 p.m. with Sunday's (April 1) doubleheader set to start at noon.