QUINCY, Ill. – In an offense-filled 2016 NCAA Division II Midwest Regional winners' bracket final on Saturday (May 21) night, Ashland University's baseball team lost a 13-8 decision to Southern Indiana.
"We just couldn't shut them down," said Ashland head coach John Schaly. "Our guys kept battling. Kept coming from behind, and we tied it up. We just couldn't shut them down when we needed to."
The No. 6-seeded Eagles (33-21) will play in the consolation bracket finals on Sunday (May 22) at 4:30 p.m. Eastern against the winner of Sunday's first game at 1 p.m. Eastern against Quincy (No. 1 seed, 39-17) and Missouri S&T (No. 5 seed, 37-18).
"We've just got to win one tomorrow, and we're back in the championship," Schaly said.
A solo home run by USI senior right fielder Kyle Kempf put the Screaming Eagles up 1-0 in the top of the first inning, then a sacrifice fly from senior third baseman Trent Gunn in the second made it a 2-0 game.
Ashland rallied to put three runs on the board in the bottom of the second to take a 3-2 lead. Senior first baseman Mackenzie Hampshire came home with the Eagles' first run on a ground-ball double play. AU tied the game later in the second on a wild pitch that scored sophomore third baseman J.P. Sorma from third base, then junior shortstop Brad Hartman gave Ashland the lead with an RBI single.
Kempf re-tied the game for USI in the third, hitting a two-out RBI double, then sophomore second baseman Sam Griggs put the Screaming Eagles back on top at 4-3 with a run-scoring single. Sophomore left fielder Drake McNamara's RBI safety up the middle and Gunn's RBI single finished the four-run frame for Southern Indiana.
Back-and-forth the game went, as Ashland cut its deficit to 6-5 in the bottom of the third on a two-run home run by sophomore left fielder Greg Ludwig. Kempf, however, hit his second double of the game to plate USI's seventh run of the game in the fourth, and its eighth came across on senior catcher Ryan Bertram's single later in the inning.
Sorma, who earlier in the game extended his hitting streak to 28 games, got the Eagles to an 8-6 deficit with a homer to begin the bottom of the fifth. Ashland's two-out magic struck again later in the fifth when senior right fielder Mike Lewandowski tied the game at 8 with a two-run single.
Southern Indiana regained the lead in the top of the seventh on a sacrifice fly from senior first baseman Andrew Cope. The Screaming Eagles added to their advantage in the ninth on an RBI single by McNamara, a two-run homer by Cope and an RBI single from senior shortstop Kyle Niemeier.
The loss on the mound went to sophomore right-hander Luke Smith (1-4), who allowed five runs, five hits and a walk and struck out two in 3 1/3 innings of relief.
Sorma and Hartman each had two of Ashland's 10 hits, and Lewandowski and Ludwig each drove in two runs.
Ashland has scored 20 runs in the first three games of the Midwest Regional, and 14 of them have come with two outs.
"We scored eight runs. Eight runs should be good enough to win a lot of ball games," said Schaly.