CARY, N.C. – The Ashland University baseball team fell into a deep hole, and despite their penchant for digging out of those deficits, the Eagles fell to Central Missouri, 9-4, in the NCAA Division II World Series opener at the USA Baseball National Training Complex on Saturday (June 1) afternoon.
The Eagles (47-14) will now play the loser of Saturday night's Colorado Mesa-NYIT matchup at 3 p.m. Monday (June 3) in an elimination game.
Ashland, which has come from behind to win 23 times in 2019, was not able to muster the same magic on Saturday after falling behind, 7-0, as the Mules tallied seven hits in the first three innings.
"We just dug ourselves too big of a hole early on and you have to give Central Missouri credit," said AU head coach John Schaly, who is leading his fifth AU squad to the World Series. "They swung the bats. We mounted a little bit of a comeback, but it was too much of a hole to overcome."
The Eagles rallied for pair in the fourth inning as sophomore Austin Eifrid, who reached base twice in the game, singled and scored on a triple off the 330-foot sign in the right-field corner by junior Carson Mittermaier.
Sophomore Micah Allen then reached on a throwing error by the shortstop, picking up an RBI to make it 7-2.
Central Missouri (44-14), seeded No. 5 in the World Series, answered right back in the fifth on Alex Madera's two-run single off Ashland reliever Perry Bewley.
Senior right-hander Ryan Curtis gave the Eagles a chance to get back in the game with four shutout innings, but the offense managed just two more runs in the seventh on an RBI bloop single by sophomore Dillan Smith and an RBI double down the line by sophomore Logan Stoldt, who worked a 12-pitch at-bat to earn his base hit.
"He was throwing a lot of fastballs early in the count, then missed on a couple curveballs, so I thought he'd come back with a fastball," said Stoldt. "I just hit the fastball I wanted to hit."
"We had the bases loaded there after we got a couple in the seventh, but you have to give their pitchers credit," Schaly said. "They got two big strikeouts with our 1 and 2 hitters. If we get a base hit there, we get two runs and we're within three and we have a chance."
Dryer would go on to finish the game for his first save of the season. UCM starter Ben Kelsch (8-3) earned the win, while Ashland starter Devin Peters (8-2) suffered the defeat. He tossed two innings, and was never able to establish himself on the mound.
Eifrid and junior Garret Robberts were the only two Eagles to reach base twice in the game.
"We started off the regional not so hot," said Mittermaier. "This team always fights and finds a way back. We just dug too deep today. I think it's going to be good for us and we'll come back ready to go Monday."
Mason Janvrin and Harrison Schnurbusch had three hits each for the Mules, who out-hit the Eagles, 12-6.