EASTLAKE, Ohio- The Lake Erie Storm baseball team earned two big wins over 2018 Great Midwest Athletic Conference champions, the Ohio Dominican University Panthers this afternoon.
The Panthers struck first, getting an early 2-0 lead by the top of the second inning aided by an RBI single in the first, and a solo home run in the second.
In the bottom half of the third inning, Storm infielder Sam Browning led off the inning with a single setting the stage for junior Caleb Waller to take an inside fastball off of the scoreboard in right field for a home run to tie the game, 2-2.
The Storm gained the lead, 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth. Jacob Lozinski led off the Storm half of the inning with a double, and Nathan Birtley pressured the Ohio Dominican defense with a bunt, drawing a throwing error which allowed Birtley to advance to second and Lozinski to score.
In the top of the eighth inning, freshman Jackson Miller came in to pitch in relief. Although the freshman allowed a Panther run to score, which tied the game up, his offense rallied behind him in the bottom half of the inning. Senior Nigel Williams led off the inning with a home run to take back the lead for good.
Christopher Mutter closed game one for the Storm in the top of the ninth, earning two quick strikeouts and coaxing an easy ground ball to the shortstop for the final out of the game and his fifth save of the year.
Ryan Middendorf started the first game, earning the win which was his third of 2019. The junior worked for seven innings, allowing two runs on seven hits and earning six strikeouts.
The second game started out rough for the Storm and starting pitcher David Lemasters, the senior ace of the pitching staff. The Panthers went up 4-0 early. However, the Storm offense had their senior ace's back and started to chip away.
In the bottom of the second, Nathan Erzen doubled followed by a single by senior Rees Rua. With runners on first and third, Corbin Paxton hit a sacrifice fly ball to score the first Storm run of the ballgame.
Lemasters cruised through three innings, and in the bottom of the fifth, the Storm scored two more runs cutting the Panther lead to one.
In the bottom of the sixth, with runners on first and second, Corbin Paxton hit a three-run home run to take a 6-4 lead over the Panthers.
Storm freshman Cade Wendel came in to close the game in the top of the seventh, earning his first save of his collegiate career.
Lemasters allowed four runs, of which three were earned, in his fifth win of the season.
Storm baseball's core of upperclassmen have been phenomenal so far. Seniors David Lemasters and Evan Layne have been lights-out on the mound, and Nigel Williams has been having a productive year at the plate batting .333 with a slugging percentage of .586 with six home runs. Juniors Corbin Paxton (1B) has been a consistent presence, scoring 21 runs, with 13 RBIs and 11 walks. Nathan Erzen has been producing offensively as a catcher, hitting .300 with 12 RBIs. Shortstop Caleb Waller has scored 21 runs with five home runs, 19 walks, and 16 RBIs.
"Most of our upperclassmen have a ton of experience under our belts. We have seen a lot of hard times here and we knew to come into this season that this could be a year where we really make some noise in the conference. We are hungry and still have a lot to prove", said Waller. "Today's wins were as big as any we've had thus far. It was great to see so many different guys step up and deliver in clutch situations. Today is just another example that we can go toe to toe with anyone in the GMAC."
The Storm will finish the series up against Ohio Dominican on Monday, April 15. The third game of the season will begin at 4 pm.