PAINESVILLE, OHIO – They scored seven, but needed eight. Trailing 9-1 entering their last at bat, the Lake Erie College baseball team mounted a furious ninth-inning comeback but ultimately fell short in a 9-8 loss to visiting Ashland University in the Storm's home opener Tuesday (April 2) to kick-off a three-game Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference series at Braggs Field.
Before the Storm's (6-16, 3-6 GLIAC) late-inning run, Ashland's Brad Thomas dominated on the mound through the first eight innings in a game that looked to be a blowout. Thomas (5-1) allowed just one run on five hits before being pulled after 97 pitches heading into the ninth.
That was when it nearly all fell apart for the nationally-ranked Eagles (18-6, 7-2 GLIAC). Relievers John Thacker and Cole Hudson failed to record an out, allowing all seven of the batters they faced to reach base, though only sophomore Jake Ripma (Lyndhurst, Ohio/Brush) had a hit, a lead-off double. After four walks, a hit batter and a fielding error, it was 9-5 and the bases were loaded with no outs.
Zach Botjer came on and was greeted by a two-run double to the wall in centerfield by senior 3B Cody Blood (Conneaut, Ohio/Conneaut). Blood, who homered earlier in the game, finished with three hits and three runs batted in to lead the Storm.
Freshman Matthew Avromov (Shelby Township, Mich./Notre Dame Prep) followed with a sacrifice fly and Garrett Emling (Tallmadge, Ohio/Tallmadge) walked to put the winning run on base, but Botjer retired the final two hitters to escape with his fourth save.
Early on in the game, it was the Storm pitchers who were working outside the strike zone. Aided by eight walks and three hit batters, the Eagles scored in seven of the first eight innings. The big blow came in the fourth. Leading just 3-1, a two-run home run to left field by Austin Walts that made it 5-1.
The Eagles then added single runs in the sixth and seventh before two more in the eighth.
Walts, Wade Kaido and Jon Broll each had two hits for the Eagles, with leadoff hitter Kaido scoring three times. Broll finished with three RBI, including two on a single in the eighth.
Blood went 3-for-4 and was the only Storm hitter with more than one hit.
Senior Doug Fox (Parma, Ohio/Valley Forge) allowed five runs on six hits in four innings to take the loss. Fox (1-2) walked four and struck out four before giving way to the bullpen.
The two teams combined for 13 walks and six hit batsmen.
The Storm and Eagles will conclude their midweek series Wednesday, April 3, with a pair of games beginning at 2 p.m.