Eagles Battle To The End, Fall To Lakers, 15-12

Vince Frate (19)
Vince Frate (19)

The early bird may always get the worm but in baseball, five o'clock lightning has always been the great equalizer.

The Ashland University Eagles took a 6-0 second inning lead against Grand Valley State on Thursday (May 8) at the GLIAC Baseball Tournament in Xenia, Ohio. AU cuffed around the GLIAC pitcher of the year - Evan Nietfeldt - for six runs and five hits in 1.2 innings. But the Lakers have some pretty good bats of their own and they carried the day, coming back to stun AU, 15-12.

AU will now meet Wayne State on Friday. WSU lost to Saginaw Valley State on Thursday in this double elimination tournament. Ashland is the sixth seed in this tournament. GVSU is the top seed.

AU (24-20) gave the Lakers (34-11) all they could handle. The Eagles collected 19 hits against the five pitchers the Lakers sent to the mound. The big blow early on was a grand slam by center fielder Alex Sortwell. That was Sortwell's second homer of the season and it came in the five-run second inning.

Ashland had scored the game's first run in the top of the first inning. Third baseman Wade Kaido walked and advanced to third base on a double by shortstop Austin Walts. Kaido came home on a wild pitch.

After scoring six runs in the first two innings, the Eagles were held in check over the next five frames. AU scored twice during that stretch.  Meanwhile, GVSU scored four runs in the second inning, two in the third inning and seven runs in the fourth inning. Heading to the fifth inning the Lakers were ahead, 13-7.

One of the biggest cogs in the GVSU turnaround was Adam Poel. He came out of the bullpen to throw 5.1 innings. Poel (2-0) allowed two runs on six hits and received credit for the win.

AU starter Cory Teachout left after 1.2 innings. He allowed four runs on four hits with two walks. Sam Shafer (0-1) followed Teachout and he took the loss, giving up six runs on four hits in 1.1 innings. Cole Hudson and Nash Cunningham also pitched. GVSU scored at least two runs against each AU hurler.

The Eagles climbed back in this game by scoring once in the seventh, three times in the eighth and once in the ninth. The run in the seventh came on first baseman Mike Lewandowski's second homer of the season. Right fielder Nick Edwards, Adam Murphy and catcher Adam Vasil had RBI singles in the eighth.

Left fielder Mackenzie Hampshire doubled home AU's final run in the top of the ninth. Ashland had runners perched on first and second when Chris Ripple got the final out for his 12th save of the season.

AU left 13 runners on base.

Walts was 3-for-6 with a pair of doubles. Edwards was 3-for-6 and Vasil was 4-for-4 with two RBI. Lewandowski, Sortwell and designated hitter Kyle Brooks had two hits each.

GVSU's Kevin Zak was 3-for-4 with a double, homer and three RBI. Jamie Potts, Giancarlo Brugnoni, Aaron Overbeck and Stuart Eisler had two hits each.  GVSU had 14 hits but only three went for extra bases.

This was the first meeting of the season between the Eagles and Lakers. A three-game series at Ashland was snowed out.

The Eagles, in addition to battling for the GLIAC title, are attempting to stay in the mix for an NCAA playoff berth. Ashland is ranked seventh in the region. The top six teams advance to the NCAA Midwest Regional Tournament.