NORTH CANTON, Ohio – Lake Erie pitching has been front-and-center in the Storm's recent surge through the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. On Wednesday at Walsh, it was more of the same with LEC arms leading the way in a pair of pitcher's duels in North Canton, Ohio.
Junior left-hander Heath Kelley tossed the first complete game of his career in a 3-1 victory for the Storm in the opener. Freshman right-hander Christopher Tomshack and righty reliever Brandon Grunda combined for seven innings on one-run ball in a 2-1 nightcap.
With the twin victories on the road, the Storm (20-14, 14-7 GLIAC) have now won a season-high five games in a row and eight of their last nine. LEC upped its GLIAC winning percentage to a hefty .667, and the Green & White are now two games over .500 (12-10) in overall road tilts. The wins also pull off a season sweep for Lake Erie, an impressive three-game sweep against the Cavaliers (17-20, 19-10) that saw LEC yield just one run in each game.
In Lake Erie going 8-1 since April 6, Storm hurlers have combined to crank out an earned run average of 1.88.
Lake Erie little ball pushed across run No. 1 in the opener. Josh Hudeck was hit by a pitch in leading off the game. Hudeck was bunted over (Sean Mathews) to second and then singled to third (Lucas Raley). He crossed home on a Zack DeCamp sacrifice fly to right.
Staked to a 1-0 lead, Heath Kelley pitched out of a Walsh scoring situation in the bottom of the first. Lake Erie extended its lead to 3-0 in the third when Raley doubled, DeCamp reached on an error and Aaron Lindgren tripled, all with two outs in the inning.
Those three LEC runs loomed large in a game that saw Kelley cruise. The junior southpaw yielded a single in the first and a double in the second. Uncharacteristically getting a slew of outs through the air, on pop-ups and fly-outs, Kelley wouldn't yield another base hit until the sixth.
Kelley's mound foe was freshman left-hander Matt Iosue, and Iosue mtahced Kelley, zero-for-zero after the third. When the Cavaliers came to bat in the bottom of the seventh, they were trailing, 3-0. In that final at-bat, Walsh scored its lone run. Prior to a two-out single with a runner on second, Kelley had held the Cavaliers to an 0-for-9 mark with runners in scoring position.
For the game, Kelley induced 13 fly-ball outs and three groundball outs. He scattered six hits and allowed one walk while fanning five. In 27-1/3 road innings this season, Kelley has yielded just three earned runs (0.99 ERA).
Tomshack took to the mound for game No. 2, with the start marking the first of his collegiate career. And the freshman didn't disappoint.
Regaining his composure after a rough first inning that saw him hit a batter and yield two singles – and a run – Tomshack turned his starting debut into a baffling experience … for the Walsh batters. Inducing soft contact and getting a mix of ground balls and harmless pop-ups, the Avon, Ohio, product only gave up one hit – an infield single – after the first. He hung zeroes in the second, third, fourth and fifth and would eventually yield to Grunda having tossed four straight scoreless frames, two of which were 1-2-3 affairs.
But even after Tomshack's heroics, Lake Erie still found itself down, 1-0, when he left the mound after five. That would change in a hurry.
Derrick Turocy led off the Storm sixth with a single. After a sacrifice bunt, Josh Hudeck walked and Sean Mathews grounded out, putting runners at second and third with two out. Enter Lucas Raley, he of the .350 batting average and team-high 23 RBIs.
Raley singled to left-center, plating both runners and leap-frogging the Storm into a 2-1 lead. The freshman sensation went a combined 3-for-6 with a double and two RBIs on the day.
Leading 2-1, Head Coach Brian McGee then went to Grunda, who went into the game with an ERA of 1.96 since March 22. Grunda was due to face Walsh's 2-3-and-4 batters in the bottom of the sixth. The veteran right-hander set all three down in order and then, with the score still 2-1, did the same to the Cavaliers' 5-6-and-7 hitters in the seventh.
End of game. Continuation of streak.
Lake Erie is now slated to play nationally-ranked Grand Valley State (Mich.) on Friday and Saturday.
Notes: Heath Kelley has been a run-stopper in more ways than one this season. The port-sider who now owns a tidy ERA of 1.26 held Walsh without a stolen base on Wednesday. In 43 innings pitched, Kelley has allowed just two steals (in three attempts). As a team, LEC has yielded 33 thefts in 43 attempts. … Sophomore third baseman Zack DeCamp had a six-game hit streak snapped in Wednesday's opener – he went 0-for-2 with a sacrifice fly in the game. The sophomore slugger went 1-for-3 in Wednesday's second game. … Lucas Raley is batting .414/.514/.793 (batting/on-base/slugging) over LEC's last nine games. Prior to Wednesday's nightcap – which saw him collect a game-winning single – Raley had notched at least one extra-base hit in five straight games. He has now hit safely in six straight games and has registered seven multi-RBI games on the year. … Aaron Lindgren's game-one triple marked the 10th of his career. He is Lake Erie's all-time triples leader. … Leadoff batter Josh Hudeck reached base four times on the afternoon. He now owns a .346 on-base percentage this season. … As a team LEC got its leadoff hitters aboard in just 3-of-14 innings. That performance comes on the heels of the Storm posting a .500 OBP in such situations over their previous five games.