Clutch Hits Don't Come as Eagles Stumble at Hillsdale

ASHLAND, Ohio – The AU baseball team got a couple strong starting pitching performances on Saturday (May 5) afternoon, but dropped both games of a doubleheader at Hillsdale by identical 2-1 scores. The Chargers won Game 2 in eight innings.

The Eagles (26-22, 18-16 GLIAC) clinched a spot in next week's GLIAC Tournament via a doubleheader sweep by Grand Valley State at Ohio Dominican on Saturday.

Junior right-hander Zach Botjer (Deshler, Ohio/Sinclair CC), who has been one of the GLIAC's top hurlers all season, posted a terrific performance in Game 1.

Botjer was matched pitch-for-pitch by Hillsdale starter Matthew Reck until the bottom of the sixth inning when Hillsdale (13-34, 12-23 GLIAC) finally opened the scoring with a pair of runs. Mike Blanchard and Pat O'Hearn put runners on the corners before O'Hearn stole second. Botjer got a strikeout for the second out, but Nick Nunez ripped a two-run single to left to give the Chargers a 2-0 lead.

The Eagles rallied for a run in the top of the seventh. With one out, freshman Stephen James (Westlake, Ohio) drew a walk and senior Zach Thompson (Marshalltown, Iowa/Cleveland State) was hit by a pitch. Freshman Giancarlo Saia (Mentor, Ohio/Lake Catholic) doubled down the right field line to plate James and put runners on second and third with one out.

Sophomore Wade Kaido (Zanesville, Ohio) followed with a grounder to shortstop, but Thompson was thrown out at the plate. After junior John Broll (Mississauga, Ont./Genesee CC) drew a walk to load the bases, Hillsdale reliever Kris Morris struck out sophomore Tyler Gray (Plain City, Ohio/Jonathan Alder) to end the game.

The Eagles managed just two hits off Reck and Morris and Saia had both of them. Thompson reached base four times, via three walks and a hit-by-pitch. As a team, the Eagles left 10 men on base.

Botjer (8-4) took the undeserved loss for the Eagles. He allowed just two runs on five hits and no walks. He struck out 11 Hillsdale batters.

Reck (4-2) picked up the win for Hillsdale, tossing 6.1 one-hit innings. He walked seven AU batters and struck out eight.

The Eagles held the lead briefly in Game 1, opening the scoring in the third inning without the benefit of the hit. Saia reached on an error, went to second on a sacrifice, advanced to third on a flyout and scored on a passed ball.

Scott Lantis' RBI double in the bottom of the third inning off AU starter Brad Thomas (Orrville, Ohio) tied the game at 1-1.

Hillsdale starter Charlie Fisher left the game in the fifth inning, but the Eagles could not get their offense going off reliever Shane Armstrong.

Thomas and Armstrong dueled in the final innings, but Hillsdale came up with the walk-off win in the eighth. Blanchard singled and stole second to start the inning. Thomas pitched around O'Hearn to put two runners on, but got a groundout for the first out. Nunez followed with his second straight game-winning hit on a single to center field.

Thomas (7-3) took the loss for the Eagles, allowing two runs on five hits with two walks and two strikeouts in 7.1 innings. Armstrong (2-5) got the win, tossing 3.2 shutout innings on three hits. He struck out three. Fisher surrendered an unearned run on just one hit. He walked four and struck out three.

Kaido and Gray had two hits apiece, but they were the only Eagles with hits in the game.

The Eagles will look to even the series on Sunday (May 6) afternoon at Hillsdale. First pitch of the doubleheader is set for noon.

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