QUINCY, Ill. – Coming into Thursday (May 19) night's NCAA Division II Midwest Regional opener, Ashland University's baseball team was 3-6 in May, including an 0-2 showing in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament, and is the regional's No. 6 seed.
Coming into Thursday, Indianapolis had won five straight games, won the Great Lakes Valley Conference Tournament and is the regional's No. 3 seed.
All of that was thrown out on Thursday, as the Eagles defeated the Greyhounds, 8-1, to stay in the winners' bracket of the Midwest Regional. Ashland (32-20) will play Grand Valley State (36-16-1) on Friday (May 20) at 9:30 p.m. Eastern in its next regional contest.
"We got off to a good start offensively," said Ashland head coach John Schaly, "and, obviously, (junior pitcher) Brandyn (Sittinger) threw a great ballgame. It's a lot easier to play when you're ahead."
The Eagles wasted little time getting on the board on Thursday, scoring three runs in the top of the first on an RBI single by sophomore third baseman J.P. Sorma and a two-run single by senior center fielder Nick Edwards. Sorma's hit moved his hitting streak to 26 games.
In the second, senior first baseman Mackenzie Hampshire hit a two-out, two-run double to extend the AU lead to 5-0. Then, in the bottom of the frame, Sittinger got out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation with a strikeout and a double play.
Ashland upped its lead to 6-0 in the third on a run-scoring single by junior shortstop Brad Hartman.
Indianapolis scored a run in the third to make it a 6-1 game, but Hartman got the run back in the fifth on a two-out RBI single. The Eagles put up their eighth and final run in the ninth on an RBI single by senior right fielder Mike Lewandowski.
Sittinger capped off a big Thursday with an impressive performance. Hours after landing Midwest Region Pitcher of the Year awards from both the Division II Conference Commissioner's Association (D2CCA) and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA), Sittinger (11-0) tied his career-high with 14 strikeouts while allowing two hits, a run and five walks over eight innings.
"He pitched the way he has all year long," said Schaly.
Sittinger said, "Last year, we lost that first one (at the regional), and then had to work our way to the top. A lot better than last year.
"I struggled at first, had a little bit of trouble adjusting to the mound, being turf. It's pretty easy to pitch and throw what you want knowing you have a 6-0 lead to start out the game."
Sophomore righty Pat Carlozzi finished the game with a scoreless ninth inning.
Ashland's 17-hit attack was paced by Lewandowski (4-for-6, double, RBI, two runs scored), Hampshire (3-for-4, double, two RBI, run scored) and Hartman (3-for-4, two RBIs, run scored). Sophomore left fielder Greg Ludwig and Edwards each added two hits.
"Our guys swung the bats well," Schaly said. "Used the whole field. Line drives. It was a well-played game all the way around."