CARY, N.C. – The Ashland University baseball team had its magical season come to an end in its third game at the NCAA Division II World Series as the Eagles lost to Central Missouri, 11-3, on Wednesday (June 5) at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
The Eagles (48-15) went 1-2 at the World Series, matching the best postseason in school history. The team also matched the 2002 team for the most wins in program history.
"This doesn't take away from what we've done all year," said head coach John Schaly. "One of the best years in school history."
The Eagles set a program record earlier this season with 17 consecutive wins. They also won their first 17 home games of the season and were 9-0 in postseason elimination games entering Wednesday's affair.
"These last two years have been unreal," said senior Sam Hawley, who played in his final game as an Eagle. "This group of guys, the camaraderie. We're less of a team, more of a family. It's incredible. It's a tough good-bye for sure. There are so many good players, nobody ever gives up. It was special."
The Eagles had 13 wins in their last at-bat, eight walk-off wins and 23 come-from-behind victories.
"I couldn't be more proud of a group of guys," Schaly said. "This team just never quit. Today's not an indication of what they've done all year. That's what I told them. There's only one team that doesn't finish the season with a loss. To be in the final six in the country says a lot about the year we've had."
On Wednesday, the Eagles trailed 2-0 after the first inning, but rallied for three runs in the top of the second by taking advantage of two Central Missouri errors.
Junior Garett Robberts reached on an error with one out and went to second when sophomore Dillan Smith drew a walk. Sophomore Logan Stoldt followed with a hard grounder to the left side that was mishandled and allowed Robberts to score.
"We've had many times this season where we've gotten down," said Hawley. "With the lineup we have, you're never really worried whether it's the first inning or the ninth inning, you always know with our lineup coming up there's a good chance we'll get it back to even or even take a lead. It was never really a thought that we can't do it, it was just we'll do our thing."
UCM was able to bounce right back with three in the bottom half as Mason Janvrin laced a two-run triple just inside the right field line and Alex Madera added an RBI on a groundout.
The Mules added single runs in the third and fourth innings to make it 7-3 and tacked on three more in the sixth to put the game away.
Junior left-hander Josh Smith suffered the defeat, allowing six runs (five earned) on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings. It was his first start of the season after making 27 appearances out of the bullpen. He came into the game on fire, having allowed just one earned run in 11 1/3 innings in the postseason.
The only two seniors in the lineup – Matt Littrell and Hawley – had a hit for the Eagles. Eifrid had Ashland's third hit as the Mules out-hit the Eagles, 19-3.
Central Missouri now plays Colorado Mesa on Thursday and will need to beat the Mavericks twice to advance to the championship round.