Junior catcher Sam Hawley hit a walk-off RBI double in the bottom of the ninth to give the Ashland University baseball team a 4-3 win over Purdue Northwest on Friday (April 20) afternoon at Donges Field.
It was the 750th win in the AU career of head coach John Schaly, who is in his 21st season.
The Eagles (24-11, 11-6 GLIAC) have now won three games in walk-off fashion this season as they continued to improve their standing in the GLIAC and the Midwest Region. Ashland is in second place in the conference standings – one game ahead of Davenport and 2.5 behind Northwood. AU has won 15 of its last 18 games.
Ashland trailed 3-0 going into the bottom of the seventh after giving up three unearned runs as the defense committed six errors on the day.
Then the rally continued from nothing. Freshman Austin Eifrid had his ground ball scoot through the legs of PNW shortstop Mike Mikulich and he hustled into second base. Junior Matt Littrell followed by poking a grounder just inside the bag at third for a game-tying double.
In the ninth, Vanata led off with a single through the infield, went to second on a sac bunt and scored on the first pitch Hawley saw from Chad Patrick.
"It felt good off the bat, I knew it was over his head, so as soon as it came off the bat I knew it was time to celebrate," Hawley said.
The offense came in support of junior starter Chris Slavik, who tossed his best game of the season. The right-hander worked in all parts of the zone and was efficient, making 91 pitches that included 69 strikes.
"It's something I've been working on a lot since I was a freshman," Slavik said. "I just had to fill up the zone and see what happens. Trust the stuff. When I have command of the off-speed stuff it stems from there and gives me a confidence boost."
Slavik gave up three runs, all unearned, in eight terrific innings. He scattered six hits, walked two and struck out seven.
"When he throws strikes, he's really good," said Schaly. "He was pounding the zone today. He had his fastball going, his slider going. That's probably the best outing he's had all year."
Senior right-hander Pat Carlozzi (3-0) earned the win by tossing a scoreless top of the ninth.
Brandon Haczynski did not pick up a decision for the Pride (14-16, 6-10 GLIAC). He went 6 2/3 innings and allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits. He walked three and struck out six. Patrick (3-3) took the loss in relief.
Littrell and Vanata had two hits apiece while Vanata reached base three times, going 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, two runs and an RBI.
Schaly has now won 1,113 games in his career and he has a .653 winning percentage (750-397-4) at Ashland.
"He's a legend, there's no other way to put it. Coach Schaly is a legend," said Slavik. "He teaches us to play the game the right way."
The Eagles and Pride will resume their four-game series Saturday (April 21) at 1 p.m. with a doubleheader at Donges Field. Both games will be seven-inning affairs.