ESPN has Top Plays. The AU baseball team counters with Top Players.
On a nightly basis, the all-sports network treats viewers to the Top 10 plays of the day. Saturday (Mar. 23) at Donges Field, the top three hitters in the Ashland order collected hits and highlights in a manner that would make Bristol, Conn., blush.
The Eagles opened GLIAC play with a sweep of Saginaw Valley State, winning 9-2 and 5-4. In the first game, the top three hitters in the Ashland order – Wade Kaido (Zanesville, Ohio), Austin Walts (Amherst, Ohio/Amherst Steele) and Austin Erb (Mechanicsville, Va./Hanover) went 6-for-9 with five runs scored, five RBI and one extra-base hit.
In the second game, Kaido, John Broll (Mississagua, Ont./Genesee C.C.) and Erb filled the first three spots in the lineup and they went 4-for-8 with three runs scored and a pair of RBI.
The two wins gives the Eagles a 13-4 record. SVSU is 2-10. This was also the first taste of conference play for the Cardinals. The Eagles have a five-game winning streak and have won six of their last seven games.
In the opener, the Eagles scored four runs in the third inning. Walts had an RBI single in that uprising and outfielder Alex Sortwell (San Mateo, Calif./Canada College) contributed a two-run single.
Walts had an RBI single in the fifth inning to put the Eagles ahead, 5-1. The Eagles gave starter and winner Brad Thomas (Orrville, Ohio) a nice cushion with four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. Kaido drove in the first run in that spurt and Erb had a two-run single.
Thomas (3-1) pitched his first complete game of the season. In seven innings, he allowed two rurns – one earned – on nine hits. He walked one and struck out one.
Scott Sency, who pitched the first three innings, took the loss. He's 0-1. Michael Craig and Chet Lafave had two hits each for SVSU.
In the second game, the Cardinals had a 4-2 lead entering the bottom of the fourth inning. Ashland scored twice in the fourth to tie the game and scored once in the fifth for a 5-4 lead. That's the way the game ended.
Broll had a two-run double in the fourth. In the fifth, Walts was hit by a pitch and designated hitter Stephen James (Westlake, Ohio) doubled. That shot moved Walts to third base. After Tyler Bires (Lorain, Ohio/Amherst Steele) was retired on a fly to first, shortstop Matt Gundlach (Monroeville, Ohio/Perkins) produced a sacrifice fly to left field.
Starter Eric Vaughan (Delta, Ohio/Owens C.C.) pitched four innings and allowed all four runs on seven hits. Relief pitchers Vince Frate (North Royalton, Ohio) and Zach Botjer (Deshler, Ohio/Sinclair C.C.) shut down the Cards over the final three innings. Botjer pitched the final 1.1 innings and picked up his second save. He didn't allow a hit, walked one and struck out three.
AU had five hits, two each by Broll and Erb. Ryan Hotmer and Dylin Eschenburg had two hits each for the Cardinals. SVSU leadoff hitter Brad Schalk drove in two runs.
The Eagles and Cardinals will conclude the series with a single game on Sunday (Mar. 24, noon).