ASHLAND, Ohio – On a frigid day to open the home schedule at Donges Field, the AU baseball team only stayed outside as long as necessary to dispatch Northwood in a doubleheader sweep, 3-1 and 2-0, on Saturday (March 26) afternoon. The doubleheader opened GLIAC play for both teams.
With wind chills in the teens, senior Ajay Meyer (Hamler, Ohio/Owens CC) and sophomore Brad Thomas (Orrville, Ohio) kept the AU defense on its toes and combined to allow no earned runs over 14 innings. The Eagles made just one error on the afternoon.
Meyer started game one and allowed a pair of one-out singles in the first inning. He calmly slammed the door on the early rally with two strikeouts. He had five strikeouts through the first two innings.
The Eagles (11-4, 2-0 GLIAC) manufactured its first run of the afternoon in the third inning off Northwood starter Casey Ingle. Shortstop Matt Gundlach (Monroeville, Ohio/Sandusky Perkins) singled to start the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by right fielder Ethan Houck (Fort Wayne, Ind./Glen Oaks CC). Designated hitter John Kuzio (Marion, Ohio/Pleasant) singled to put runners on the corners and center fielder Ryan Avery (Berea, Ohio/Cuyahoga CC) scored Gundlach on a sacrifice fly.
Northwood tied the game in the fourth inning with an unearned run as Ryan Abraham reached on an error and came around to score on Andy Bouchard's RBI single.
In the fifth, Kuzio singled to center with one out. Avery followed with a single into right-center, but center fielder Jake Oard let the ball skip under his glove, allowing Kuzio to score from first base. That gave Ashland a 2-1 lead.
The Eagles added insurance in the sixth as Avery's fielder's choice scored catcher Adam Murphy (West Carrollton, Ohio), who reached on an error to start the inning.
Meyer was sharp when he needed to be to keep the Timberwolves (5-5, 0-2 GLIAC) off the board. Northwood stranded 11 runners in the first game.
Meyer (4-0) scattered seven hits and allowed just one unearned run. He struck out eight and walked three (one intentional). The senior lowered his ERA to 1.12.
Kuzio was 3-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in the first game. Third baseman Tyler Gray (Plain City, Ohio/Jonathan Alder) had two hits, and Avery had two RBI and was 1-for-3.
Ingle (0-1) took the loss for the Timberwolves in game one, but did not pitch poorly. He allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
In game two, the recipe for Ashland was pitching and defense with Thomas on the mound. The sophomore went toe-to-toe with Northwood starter Andrew Thompson, who deserved a better fate if not for his opponent.
Thomas set down the first seven men he faced until catcher Ryan Palmer singled down the left field line in the third inning. He was retired on a double-play groundball hit by Jason Fracassa.
Thompson was just as good until the fourth inning when second baseman Matt McAllester (Westlake, Ohio) started the inning with a single. He stole second and moved to third on a throwing error by Palmer. Two batters later, left fielder Evan Melendez (Amherst, Ohio/Steele) tripled into the right-field corner to score McAllester. Avery brought Melendez in on a sacrifice fly to give Thomas all the runs he would need.
He faced the minimum until the sixth inning when he allowed a two-out single. Michael Goodwin started the seventh with an infield single, but Brett Lechner fouled out and Jake Labrecque grounded into a game-ending 4-6-3 double play.
The Timberwolves hit just four balls out of the infield against Thomas (3-2). Seventeen of the 21 outs he recorded came via strikeout or groundout.
The right-hander surrendered just three hits and walked none while striking out four.
Thompson (1-1) took his first loss of the season and allowed just two runs on four hits with one walk and two strikeouts.
The Eagles will hope the pitching and defense continue on Sunday (March 27) as the teams will square off in a doubleheader at Donges Field to finish the four-game set. First pitch of game one is slated for 12 p.m.