EVANSVILLE, Ind. – Lake Erie won an NCAA tournament game for the first time in program history, as the Storm survived and advanced in the NCAA-II Midwest Regional by defeating Indianapolis, 4-3, on Friday. LEC is now 1-1 in the double-elimination brackets in Evansville, Ind.
The Storm (32-21) got seven strong innings from junior right-hander Brad Raley and came back from an early 2-0 deficit to avoid a third straight loss for the first time since March. The Green & White held a 4-3 lead from the sixth inning through the end of the game.
Raley was touched up for two singles after walking the Greyhounds' leadoff man in the bottom of the first inning. The second of those hits was an RBI marker to right field lifting Indianapolis to a 1-0 lead.
The Greyhounds (30-25) got two more hits and another run in the bottom of the third, and when the Storm came to bat against senior right-hander Evan Eyer in the top of the fourth, they were trailing, 2-0.
Having fanned four times in the game's first three innings, Lake Erie batters then began making contact and, in the case of the top of the fourth, forcing the UI defense into making mistakes. Lake Erie got five aboard and three came around to score in a fourth frame that saw Indianapolis commit three errors. A Rutger Luebke two-out single vaulted LEC into a 3-2 lead.
Buoyed by the new look of the ballgame, Raley tossed a one-two-three bottom-of-the-fourth.
The LEC offense once again pressured Eyer in the next inning. Singles by Josh Hudeck and Sean Mathews were backed up by Zack DeCamp getting hit by a pitch and Eyer then walking Aaron Lindgren to force in a run. But Lake Erie would leave the bases loaded and Indianapolis would quickly get that run back when junior right fielder Sean McCracken homered to lead off the home half of the same inning.
Eyer was replaced by relief ace Bob Kwekel with one out in the top of the sixth, a frame that saw the Storm threaten but come up empty. Raley's groundball stuff came through in the middle innings – he got six groundball outs over the fourth, fifth and sixth innings en route to logging 12 for the game. Raley came out of the game after throwing 116 pitches in seven stanzas. He allowed three runs on seven hits while walking three and fanning three.
Senior left-hander D.J. Stastny pitched a hitless eighth for Lake Erie. Brandon Grunda came on in the ninth and earned a save by pitching himself out of a man-on-second-one-out situation after a leadoff single and a bunt. The save marked Grunda's eighth of the year, and he has now pitched 11 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to April 27.
But Lake Erie's most important stretch of scoreless innings this year figures to be the final four played on Friday – two by Raley, one by Stastny and one by Grunda. And the Storm are now part of the Saturday forecast in Evansville.
Notes: With an infield hit in the fourth, freshman outfielder Lucas Raley set a new Lake Erie record for total bases in a single season. Through Friday's game, Raley has 108 total bases on 42 singles, 12 doubles, two triples and nine home runs. The previous LEC mark for total bases was Ryan Rua's 107 in 2010. Raley's 65 hits are in a tie for the second-most in program history. … Lake Erie is now 7-3 this season when brother Brad Raley starts a game. LEC is 4-0 in Raley's last four efforts, and the 6-foot-4 right-hander owns a 2.48 ERA over that quartet of starts. … Friday's contest marked the first between Lake Erie and Indianapolis. The Greyhounds have long been a strong program in the Midwest Region – 2014 marks the program's 14th appearance in an NCAA tournament, and since 2008 the Greyhounds have played .632 (247-144) baseball. … LEC is now 11-6 in one-run games this season. The Storm were outhit, 85, and are now 10-15 when being outhit in a game.