The Ashland University baseball team was no-hit through six innings, but sophomore right-hander Chance Hitchcock matched the zeros and the offense, as it has done all season, came through late as the Eagles defeated Wayne State, 1-0, on Thursday (May 10) night in the opening round of the GLIAC Tournament in Detroit.
The Eagles loaded the bases off Wayne State starter Jared Tobey in the bottom of the ninth with a hit-by-pitch and two walks. After a strikeout, the Warriors turned to reliever Taylor Horn to face junior Alex Niecikowski. On an 0-1 count, senior Connor Barleben came sprinting home as Niecikowski laid down a perfect bunt. Barleben scored without a play at the plate.
It was Ashland's seventh walk-off win of the season and its 11th win in its last at-bat. It was also AU's first 1-0 win since beating Gannon on March 2, 2014 and the first 1-0 game in GLIAC Tournament history.
Hitchcock and Tobey set the tone in what turned into a classic pitcher's duel. Hitchcock retired the first 10 batters he faced and neither team had a hit until Justin Kelly reached with a two-out single in the fourth for Wayne State. Hithcock got JT Conti to ground out to end the inning.
The Eagles (31-18) put two runners on in the sixth, but failed to score, and they did not have a hit until senior Greg Ludwig reached on an infield single with two outs in the seventh.
After Hitchcock threw 117 pitches in eight innings, AU head coach John Schaly turned to junior Chris Slavik, who pitched around a leadoff walk in the ninth, getting two groundouts before junior Sam Hawley gunned down Ryan Mergener trying to steal to end the inning.
Slavik (4-1) earned his third win in the last two weeks with his inning of relief, but Hitchcock was the star on the mound. He gave up just four singles and walked two with seven strikeouts across his eight innings.
Tobey (6-4) took the loss for the Warriors (27-20), despite giving up just one hit in 8 1/3 innings. He walked six and struck out 11, making 142 pitches.
The No. 3-seed Eagles will now take on No. 5-seed Grand Valley State at 6 p.m. Friday in the GLIAC Tournament. GVSU topped Davenport, 8-3, on Thursday. The Eagles and Lakers split four games in Allendale earlier this season.