ASHLAND, Ohio – The Ashland Eagles plated six runs with the benefit of just one hit in the fourth inning of the series finale against Lake Erie. Numbers like that had LEC fighting an uphill, and eventually a losing, battle, as the Eagles downed the Storm, 7-3, in the title game of a three-game Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference series on Wednesday.
Lake Erie (12-12, 6-5 GLIAC) took a 1-0 lead into that fourth frame, but Ashland (13-10, 3-5) took full advantage of numerous LEC mistakes in turning the tide of the ballgame. Sans that wild bottom-of-the-fourth, the rest of the contest at AU's Donges Field was a pitcher's duel on the 58-degree, Central Ohio afternoon.
For the game, the Storm outhit the host Eagles, 8-4, but pitching control problems and defensive misplays conspired against the visiting nine, a team that has now gone 2-5 over its last seven games.
"The big inning was very costly in our two losses here," said LEC Head Coach Brian McGee. "We have got to eliminate the kind of mistakes that can snowball in an inning like that. In between the two losses, we played a real nice one-run game."
Wednesday's game – played after the resumption of a suspended game that LEC won, 5-4 -- started as a battle of freshman right-handers, with the Storm's Austin Previt going against AU's Mitch Cox. The contest marked the second career start for each, and both were dealing in the early going. The Storm broke a scoreless tie in the third, playing little ball to score a solo run via an error, a bunt single and a ground-out.
Previt got in trouble in the bottom of the fourth and contributed to his own travails with a throwing error, a walk, a wild pitch and five hit batters. By the time the Eagles were finished in the fourth, they had recorded six runs on just one base hit.
Previt was lifted in favor of Christopher Tomshack, who inherited a 6-1 deficit. Cox was stingy in defending that five-run cushion for Ashland. After allowing just one run through five, the Eagles right-hander did yield one more in the Storm half of the sixth. But even then LEC was forced to accept a run on a sacrifice fly in a bases-loaded, one-out situation.
Ashland got that run back in the bottom of the sixth. Cox was then replaced by freshman right-hander Dan Whitacre, who sped through the top of the seventh in 1-2-3 fashion. Whitacre hit a batter and walked another in the Storm eighth, but he got out of the inning unscathed. He allowed a bunt single to Derek Turocy leading off the ninth, and Josh Hudeck would later plate Turocy with a two-out, RBI single. But that would be the lone run the Storm could muster against Whitacre in his three-inning save performance.
Turocy, Sean Mathews and Alex Lind each registered two base hits in the game. What has surely been one of the GLIAC's top defensive units this season committed three errors in the game and 11 for the series.
Notes: With Austin Previt on the mound, Lake Erie had four freshmen in its starting lineup. Lucas Raley started at first base, Alex Lind got the start in left, and Derek Turocy started in right. … In six games since returning from injury, shortstop Sean Mathews is batting .444 (8-of-18). Mathews has hit safely in five consecutive games. … LEC is now 6-9 all-time against the Eagles. Six games in the LEC-AU series have been decided by one run.