When it comes to trophies, the AU baseball team has an inventory that rivals Ashland-based sporting goods dealer MVD Sports.
Under head coach John Schaly, the Ashland University baseball team has won the GLIAC regular season title, the Midwest regional crown and advanced to the College World Series. About the only item missing from that resume is a GLIAC Tournament title.
The Eagles took another step toward that goal on Thursday (May 9) when they shut down Wayne State, 5-2 on the second day of this year's tournament. Ashland is the only team that's 2-0 in the tournament. Friday (May 10) the Eagles draw the winner of an elimination game between Wayne State and Grand Valley State. The Lakers, the GLIAC regular season champs, lost to Ohio Dominican on Thursday.
Ashland didn't encounter any misfortune like that. The Eagles (34-16) defeated the Warriors for the third time this season. AU was clinging to a 2-1 lead when it scored three times in the sixth inning. That deficit was too much for Wayne State (32-17) to overcome.
Right fielder Shane Wagner (Volant, Pa./Mercyhurst Northeast C.C.) had a big game, going 4-for-4 with a triple and two RBI. Shortstop Austin Walts (Amherst, Ohio/Amherst Steele) was 2-for-4 with two RBI.
Ashland got strong pitching from starter Jake Baldwin (Madison Heights, Mich./Lamphere) and reliever Zach Botjer (Deshler, Ohio/Sinclair C.C.). Baldwin pitched the first 6.1 innings and allowed two runs on five hits. He walked four and struck out three. Baldwin, the 2013 GLIAC pitcher of the year, is 7-0.
Botjer was brilliant coming out of the bullpen. He worked 2.2 scoreless innings and gave up one hit. He walked one and struck out three and collected his sixth save of the year.
Wayne State had the bases loaded with one out in the seventh inning. Botjer doused that rally by striking out Kasey Koster and Kyle Zimmerman.
In five of the last seven games, AU pitchers have allowed two runs or less. In three games against WSU this season, the Eagles have permitted a total of seven runs.
Both teams scored a run in the first inning. Ashland went ahead, 1-0 on a sacrifice fly by designated hitter Mackenzie Hampshire (Delphos, Ohio/Elida). That fly ball drove in Wade Kaido (Zanesville, Ohio), who opened the game with a single.
The Warriors evened the score when Brad Guenther, the 2013 GLIAC player of the year, grounded out to second base, scoring Kenny Davis, who had singled.
AU took a 2-1 lead in the fifth. Wagner hit his first triple of the season – a shot to right-center field. He came home moments later on a single by Walts. Wagner was hitting sixth in the lineup and Walts was in the seventh spot.
Those two played a key role in AU's three-run sixth inning. In that frame, Wagner singled to drive in two runs and Walts had an RBI single.
WSU starter Alex Pierse (7-2) took the loss. AU got to him for five runs (three earned) on five hits. Pierse walked three and struck out two.
The Eagles have won six of their last seven games and will take a three-game winning streak into Friday's game.