KENT, Ohio – Ashland University's baseball team dug itself a hole in Midwest Regional 1 following an opening-game loss to Tiffin on Thursday (May 16).
On Saturday (May 18), the Eagles completed their comeback through the consolation bracket against those very same Dragons. Wins of 7-6 and 15-5 allowed Ashland (45-12) to advance to the Midwest Super Regional on Friday (May 24) at 1 p.m. at Donges Field vs. Illinois-Springfield (40-15-1).
The best-of-3 super regional will be contested on Friday and Saturday (May 25) in Ashland.
"Lots of grit. They never quit. They compete," said Ashland head coach John Schaly. "It was a total team effort. Our guys will continue to battle.
"We get to finally play another home game. It will be nice, and hopefully, we'll have a great crowd."
Ashland began the day scoring an unearned run in the top of the second inning of Game 1, as sophomore left fielder Logan Moss was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Tiffin (26-31) responded with four two-out runs in the bottom of the second on back-to-back singles to center field and an Eagle error, then another two-out tally in the bottom of the third for a 5-1 advantage.
Finding itself trailing once again in the split regional, Ashland started another rally, making it a 5-2 contest in the top of the fifth on a run-scoring fielder's choice off the bat of junior designated hitter Carson Mittermaier.
As has been the pattern for the entire tournament, the Eagles knotted the score at 5 in the top of the sixth, and junior third baseman Garett Robberts was the one who did it. Robberts connected on a three-run home run to left-center field to tie the score.
Later in the sixth, sophomore first baseman Micah Allen drew a two-out bases-loaded walk to put AU back on top, 6-5. Tiffin responded in the bottom of the sixth with a run to re-knot the score at 6, but sophomore right-hander Perry Bewley came in and stranded Dragons at second and third.
The back-and-forth continued into the top of the eighth, when sophomore catcher Logan Stoldt lifted a sacrifice fly to give Ashland back the lead at 7-6.
Senior closer Chris Slavik moved to 12-1 with his second win in as many days, pitching 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Robberts drove in three runs and was 2-for-5 with the homer, and Stoldt and sophomore right fielder Dillan Smith each had two of Ashland's 10 hits.
"We've got probably one of the most special groups of guys I've ever played with," Slavik said. "There's no quit in any one of us. Any guy you call on, we have faith he's going to get the job done."
Mittermaier got the Eagles on the scoreboard first in Game 2, hitting an opposite-field two-run homer in the bottom of the first, then junior center fielder Michael Rogers followed with an RBI single to center.
The Dragons got a run back in the top of the second, but the counter came from senior second baseman Matt Littrell in the form of a two-run single in the bottom of the second. While Tiffin added another single run in the top of the third, the ping-pong flow of the game continued when the Eagles plated another crooked number – five runs – for a 10-2 lead after three innings.
Sophomore righty Max Frederick (4-1) went the first six innings, a high at Ashland, to earn the victory, allowing eight hits, two runs and two walks and striking out four. Senior righty Sam Rice earned his second save with three innings of relief.
"Max gave us six strong innings," Schaly said. "We played an errorless game, we swung the bats. Total team effort."
Said Frederick, "It's huge. It's a great feeling. I can't even put it into words. I was told from the start that we were going to pitch our pitchers, and if everything falls where it's supposed to, I'll pitch in the championship game, which was awesome."
Mittermaier broke out by going 3-for-4 with the homer, four RBIs and two runs scored in the second contest.