Eagles, Dragons Split On Wild Final Day Of Regular Season

Eagles, Dragons Split On Wild Final Day Of Regular Season

The Ashland University baseball team nearly pulled off a four-game sweep of Tiffin, but had to settle for three of four as the teams split Sunday's doubleheader at Donges Field. Ashland won the opener, 6-5, but the Dragons claimed the finale by the same score.

All four games in the series were decided by one run. The Eagles are 11-2 in such contests this season.

Ashland earned the No. 3 seed in the GLIAC Tournament and will play No. 4-seed Wayne State on Thursday (May 10) at 5:30 p.m. in the opening round at the Detroit Police Athletic League.

On Sunday, the Eagles won Game 1 in walk-off fashion as senior Greg Ludwig scored on a wild pitch for our sixth walk-off win of the season and second in the series. Game 2 was stalled by a 1-hour, 33-minute rain delay, and the Eagles nearly overcame a 6-2 deficit, but came up just short.

Much like Game 2 on Saturday, the Dragons (16-27, 10-17 GLIAC) took a 3-0 lead in the opening frame of Sunday's opener only to have the Eagles (30-18, 16-12 GLIAC) answer with four runs in the bottom of the inning.

Junior Matt Littrell reached on an error and senior Connor Barleben yanked a two-run homer to right to cut the deficit to 3-2. Barleben hit three home runs in the series and has a team-high 11 on the year.

The Eagles followed with three straight singles, the last by sophomore Michael Rogers that tied the game at 3. A walk loaded the bases, and junior Alex Niecikowski followed by drawing a full-count walk to give the Eagles a 4-3 lead and knock TU starter Max Dakin out of the game.

Tiffin tied the game in the second before Ashland right-hander Devin Peters was able to settle in and set down the Dragons in the third and fourth innings.

The Dragons took a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning on Nich Green's RBI groundout, but the Eagles answered in the sixth to tie the game. Ashland loaded the bases before the Dragons cut down a runner at home on a fielder's choice for the second out. Littrell then drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 5-5.

Junior right-hander Chris Slavik relieved freshman lefty Nicky Zorne with a runner on and one out in the seventh, and retired two Dragons on four pitches to end the inning.

In the seventh, Ludwig reached on an infield single and went to second on an error. Sophomore Vince Vanata then bunted and beat out the throw for a single, putting runners on the corners. After Vanata went to second unimpeded, the Dragons intentionally passed sophomore Michael Rogers.

With pinch-hitter Micah Allen at the plate, TU reliever Jake Monnin spiked a pitch that skipped past Green behind the plate and allowed Ludwig to score easily from third to give the Eagles their sixth walk-off win of the season. It was their 10th win in their last at-bat.

Slavik (3-1) earned his second win of the week by throwing 2/3 of an inning. Zorne was also solid in relief and did not allow a run in two innings. Peters took the no-decision, giving up five runs on nine hits in 4 1/3 innings. He walked three and struck out five.

Barleben, Ludwig, Vanata and Rogers all had two hits apiece in spots 3-6 in the order. That group went 8-for-15.

In Game 2, the Eagles trailed, 5-0, going into the bottom of the sixth when Rogers and sophomore Carson Mittermaier each delivered RBI singles to cut the margin to 5-2.

After junior Ryan Curtis retired the Dragons in order in the seventh, lightning struck and rains came, forcing the lengthy rain delay.

After the break, Tiffin added a key insurance run in the top of the eighth. With darkness coming shortly, the Eagles rallied in the bottom half.

Junior Sam Hawley doubled and freshman Dillan Smith followed with a single. One run scored when Eifrid's grounder was misplayed by the second baseman, putting runners on second and third with one out. Littrell then grounded out, scoring another run to make it 6-4, and Barleben followed with an RBI single through the hole, cutting it to 6-5.

Ludwig then came to the plate and tried to swing for the fences and send the Eagles out with the win as darkness descended, but he came up empty.

Jon Laird (2-0) got the win for Tiffin and Jake Monnin, who suffered the loss in Game 1, earned his first save. Carlozzi (3-1) took the loss for Ashland.

Senior Luke Smith made the start for the Eagles after missing all season with an injury. In a nice moment, head coach John Schaly had Smith face one batter and he struck out Brayden Callihan before coming off to hugs from his teammates.

Sophomore Josh Smith and Curtis combined to allow no earned runs in five relief innings.