It's Great Late for Eagles Against Tiffin

Tawna Garver
Tawna Garver

            Ashland University catcher Tawna Garver (Mansfield, Ohio/Hillsdale) and second baseman Cayla Seidler (Massillon, Ohio/Massillon Washington) must be big fans of Uncle Cracker and Kenny Chesney.

            Those two used to sing about everything getting hotter when the sun goes down. As the sun began to set at Brookside Park on Wednesday (Mar. 28), Garver belted her team-leading fourth homer of the season. That shot came in the seventh inning of the second game of a doubleheader with Tiffin.  Garver's circuit clout tied the game, 3-3. AU won the game, 6-3 in nine innings. The go-ahead run scored in the ninth when Seidler was hit with a pitch with the bases-loaded.

            That gave her two game-winning RBI for the day. In the first game, which Ashland won, 4-3, Seidler unleashed a double to right-center field in the sixth inning that scored shortstop Bri Woody (Cleveland, Ohio/Magnificat) from second base.  Seidler's two-bagger broke a 3-3 tie.  AU had trailed, 3-1 after three innings.

            When the sweep was complete, the Eagles jumped for joy. That doesn't always happen in mid-season, but these wins were a long time coming for the Eagles. A year ago, Tiffin went 6-0 against Ashland and defeated the Eagles in the championship game of the GLIAC Tournament.

            Both teams went on to the NCAA playoffs last season. AU has remained at that level, this sweep gives the Eagles a 23-5 record, 7-1 in the GLIAC. Ashland has won six consecutive games and has prevailed in 16 of its last 17 games. The Dragons are 11-14, 2-6 in the league.

            Those numbers behind the Tiffin name are deceiving. In Wednesday's first game, the Dragons made AU starter and winner Emlyn Knerem (Brunswick, Ohio) work as hard as any team has this season. Knerem would end up going the distance for the 12th time this season and the win gives her a 16-0 record with a 0.97 ERA. But the Dragons did bang out nine hits and they struck out only four times.

            All of Tiffin's runs came in the third inning.  In that frame the Dragons scored three runs on four hits and Knerem gave them assist with a throwing error on a ball hit back to the box. First baseman Caitlin Houk had a two-run single in the inning. She finished 2-for-3.

            Yet after that blip in the fourth inning, the Dragons didn't score again.  Twice they got a runner to second base and they got one runner to third, but every time Knerem needed to get a big out, she got it. She retired the last five batters she faced and in the seventh, she buzzed through the middle of the order, getting Amanda Temple on a fly ball to center,  Houk on a fly to left and catcher Lesy Herbert was retired on a ground ball to Knerem.

            AU scored a run in the first, third baseman Alyssa Kelley (Mentor, Ohio) singling up the middle to bring in designated player Jerrica Young (Loudonville, Ohio), who had tripled.  The Eagles scored a run on a wild pitch in the fourth and in the fifth, center fielder Taylor Menhart (Twinsburg, Ohio) singled up the middle to bring in Kelley from second base. Kelly had started the inning with a single. She was 4-for-8 in this doubleheader and is hitting a team-high .467.

            Seidler's game-winning hit came with one out in the seventh. The safety came off of Abbey Cooksey, who allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings. Cooksey is 7-6.

            Tiffin struck quickly in the second game, scoring three times off of freshman Amber McDermott (Creston, Ohio/Norwayne) in the first inning.  McDermott allowed four hits in that inning. She would allow only four more hits over the next eight innings. That seems to be the freshman's method of operation. She may struggle a bit early, but once she gets her feet on the ground, she has demonstrated the ability to keep firing strikes. She's 6-2 and on this day, allowed eight hits and walked only two batters.

            First baseman Franki Gironda (Akron, Ohio/Hoban) cut the Tiffin lead to 3-1 with a run-scoring single to right in the fourth. That scored Seidler, who had dropped a single down the left-field line to begin the inning. AU got to within 3-2 in the sixth when Kelley sent a line drive over the right-field fence for her first homer of the season.

            Then came Garver's blow in the seventh. That, too, was a line shot, this time to left field. After that, neither team scored until AU pushed across three runs in the ninth. The Eagles used two walks, a hit-by-pitch and a two-out, two-run single by Young to manufacture those runs.  All of that damage came against Amber Young, who fought through what appeared to be a stiff back to go nine innings. She allowed six runs on eight hits with four walks and nine strikeouts.  At one point in the game, she fanned five of six batters and three consecutive Ashland batters took called third strikes.

            Houk and Temple both went 2-for-4 for Tiffin and Houk had two RBI.

            Ashland will play four games at Findlay this weekend (Mar. 31-Apr. 1).