If the Hillsdale Chargers had made a run to Drug Mart or Rite Aid after the first inning of Sunday's (Apr. 7) GLIAC baseball game at Ashland University's Donges Field, who could have blamed them?
Hitting is contagious. Thanks to a three-run homer by John Broll (Mississauga, Ont./Genesee C.C.) in the first inning, Ashland University led, 3-0. The offensive fireworks were about to spread like the flu up and down the order for the 15th-ranked Eagles.
"We feel we can score in just about any part of the order we're in," remarked AU head coach John Schaly.
No one is in a position to argue with Schaly at this point. Sunday, the Eagles pounded out 18 hits and won, 14-5. That gave AU a win in the series (two games to one) against the Chargers. Ashland is 21-8, 10-4 in the GLIAC. Hillsdale is 12-15, 5-9 in the conference.
The three bottom hitters in the Ashland order – Mackenzie Hampshire (Delphos, Ohio/Elida), Matt Gundlach (Monroeville, Ohio/Sandusky Perkins) and Luke Burch (Millersburg, Ohio/Berlin Highland) – combined to go 11-for-14 with six runs scored and five RBI. Before this weekend, Hampshire was 1-for-2. In two games against the Chargers, he was 5-for-5 with three doubles. Hampshire and Burch are freshmen.
"If you put the ball in play, good things should happen," said Hampshire, an outfielder by trade. "You go up there and swing the bat, good things should happen. See the ball, hit the ball."
Broll ended the day 1-for-5 with four RBI. The only starter in the AU lineup who didn't get a hit was left fielder Austin Erb (Mechanicsville, Va./Hanover). That's a rarity, he entered the weekend hitting a team-high .407.
It's not like Hillsdale hasn't seen a case of the hits before. In Saturday's second game, AU scored 12 runs on 12 hits. Broll was 3-for-4 with a double and three RBI in that game. His homer on Sunday, a shot to center field off of starter and loser Lucas Hamelink (2-3), was his first of the season.
"It was a curveball, down and in," said Broll.
Broll came into the weekend hitting .329. An honorable mention All-GLIAC pick a year ago, that number should rise. In the last week, Broll has looked better at the plate than he did earlier in the season.
"He's a good hitter," reminded Schaly. "He got off to a little bit of a slow start. He's been swinging it well the last couple of games, since we've come back from Florida. He uses the whole field."
Outfielder Alex Sortwell (San Mateo, Calif./Canada College) used a lot of the territory behind the regulation playing field. He belted two homers on Sunday and has a team-high five for the season.
"We didn't strike out today and we put a lot of balls in play and it worked out in our favor," said Broll of the Ashland attack. "It works well when everybody on our team uses the whole field to hit the ball. We ended up grouping more hits together."
The Eagles led 6-0 after three innings and at that point, right-hander Brad Thomas (Orrville, Ohio) was cruising along. Over the first five innings, Thomas didn't allow a run and the Chargers managed only two hits against him.
That all changed in the sixth inning. Hillsdale opened the inning with five consecutive hits. The big blow was a two-run triple by shortstop Vinny Delicata. The Chargers scored four times in the sixth and added another run in the seventh before the Eagles turned to sophomore righty Jake Baldwin (Madison Heights, Mich./Lamphere). He got the final two outs of the seventh inning, coming on with the bases loaded. He pitched two scoreless innings after that to gain his first save of the season.
Thomas, now 6-1, allowed five runs on 11 hits. Thomas went 2-0 this week while Baldwin was 1-0 with a save.
What prevented the Chargers from making up any ground, was that the Eagles never stopped scoring. Ashland scored twice in the seventh inning and pushed across two runs in the eighth.
HC's Luke Ortel was 4-for-5 and drove in two runs. Delicata and catcher Brad Hayden had two hits each.
AU has won four of five GLIAC series it has played this season. The only team to take a series from the Eagles is Walsh.
This three-game series against the Chargers begins an extended home stand. On Wednesday (Apr.10), Ashland hosts a twinbill with Tiffin and next weekend, the Eagles host a three-game series with Northwood.