The Ashland University baseball team scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, coming back from a 12-8 deficit to beat visiting No. 17 Ohio Dominican, 13-12, on Wednesday (May 2) afternoon at Donges Field.
It was the a crucial in-region win for the Eagles (27-17), who stopped a six-game losing streak. Just before first pitch, it was announced the Eagles were ranked No. 7 in the Midwest Region, three slots behind the Panthers (30-12). The top eight teams, including the GLIAC, GLVC and GMAC Tournament champions, will qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Wednesday's win marked the eighth time this season the Eagles have won a game in their final at-bat.
"There's no stopping us, all we do is keep fighting," said sophomore outfielder Michael Rogers, who delivered a go-ahead, two-run double to cap AU's eighth inning rally. "Whether we're down five, six, we're just going to keep going. We know if we have one out left we have a chance to win the game."
The Eagles, who lost to the Panthers, 12-10, in Columbus last week, loaded the bases with one out against ODU reliever Tim Zeller, trailing by four in the eighth. A groundout by senior Connor Barleben brought in one run to make it 12-9. Freshman Micah Allen followed with a two-run single to the gap in right-center to trim the margin to just one run.
A walk to sophomore Carson Mittermaier put two runners on for Rogers, who came off the bench as a pinch hitter. He drove a 1-2 pitch over the head of the left fielder and one-hopped the wall to plate both runners and give the Eagles a 13-12 lead.
"I'm looking for a fastball, especially with a guy like that on the mound, who relies on his fastball and throws hard," said Rogers. "You know he's going to try to challenge me with his fastball."
Junior right-hander Chris Slavik, who came on in the eighth inning, struck out the side and walked a batter in the ninth to slam the door on the Panthers. He improved to 2-1 on the season.
ODU jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first on a couple solo shots by Justin Childers and Chris Sackett.
The Eagles answered right back with three in the bottom of the inning on Barleben's RBI single and two sac flies.
The Panthers took a 6-3 lead in the third, but Ashland countered with three in the fifth to tie the game. Senior Greg Ludwig had a two-run single that tied the game, scoring sophomore Vince Vanata and freshman Austin Eifrid.
Ashland trailed 10-6 going into the bottom of the seventh when freshman Dillon Smith hit a grounder through the hole to plate two runs and cut the deficit in half once again.
It appeared the Panthers might have put it away with two runs in the eighth, but the Eagles have proved all season that no lead is safe at Donges Field.
Junior Devin Peters got the start for the Eagles, but struggled against a tough ODU lineup. He surrendered eight runs on 11 hits in five-plus innings. Sophomore Chance Hitchcock came on in relief and worked two innings, giving up four runs.
Zeller (4-1) was charged with the loss, giving up five runs on two hits and three walks in 2/3 of an inning. Garret Sendelbach allowed six runs (three earned) on six hits in five innings as the ODU starter.
Barleben paced the AU offense, going 3-for-4 with a double and three RBI. Allen and Ludwig also drove in three runs.
The Eagles are scheduled to start a four-game series against Tiffin on Friday at 3 p.m. at Donges Field.