The Ashland University baseball team won a pair of one-run games with senior Connor Barleben hitting a walk-off homer in Game 1 as the Eagles topped Tiffin, 4-3 and 6-5, on Saturday (May 5) afternoon at Donges Field.
The teams will conclude their four-game series on Sunday (May 6) at noon at Donges Field. The games were moved up one hour because of forecasted rain Sunday afternoon.
On Saturday, the Eagles (29-17, 15-11 GLIAC) trailed for much of the opener and were down 3-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh. With one out, sophomore Carson Mittermaier singled to left-center before Barleben lifted a 3-1 pitch over the wall in right field to send the Eagles out with a win.
"I'm just looking for one pitch to hit and I got it," said Barleben. "We don't quit. If there's an out left, we still have a chance in the game. We just take that into every single game, every single at-bat to do something with it."
It was the Eagles' ninth win in their last at-bat and their fifth of the walk-off variety. It was also Barleben's second walk-off hit of the season and the second walk-off home run for Ashland.
Junior Matt Littrell gave AU a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a solo blast to the opposite field. It was his fourth homer of the season.
Tiffin (15-26, 9-16 GLIAC) rallied for a pair of runs on two hits in the second inning to take a 2-1 lead against Ashland's sophomore starter Chance Hitchcock.
Kyle Lento's RBI double in the fourth pushed the lead to 3-1 for Tiffin, but Ashland countered in the bottom of the fourth as sophomore Michael Rogers singled and scored on a double by junior Sam Hawley.
Hitchcock kept it a one-run game through the seventh inning, giving Barleben a chance for his heroics.
Hitchcock (6-4) earned the win, giving up three runs on four hits in seven innings. He walked two and struck out five. Tiffin reliever Brady Ward (4-3) suffered the loss, allowing the homer to Barleben in the seventh.
Barleben, Hawley and freshman Austin Eifrid had two hits apiece as the Eagles out-hit the Dragons, 11-4.
The Dragons took a 3-0 lead in the first inning of Game 2, but the Eagles tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Senior Greg Ludwig delivered a two-run bloop single and eventually came around to score on a wild pitch.
AU reliever Zack Whitehead was excellent in relief of freshman starter Josh Stover. Whitehead gave up just single runs in the fourth and seventh innings, but otherwise pitched 5 2/3 innings of solid relief.
That gave the AU offense a chance to take the lead. Littrell led off the third with a single and Barleben followed with a two-run shot to right field, giving the Eagles a 5-3 lead. He now has a team-high 10 homers on the year.
The Eagles pushed their lead to 6-4 in the fifth inning as Ludwig scored on an RBI fielder's choice by sophomore Vince Vanata.
After Tiffin made it 6-5 in the seventh, AU head coach John Schaly turned to junior right-hander Chris Slavik, who got out of the inning and pitched around an error in the eighth.
The Dragons put runners at second and third with one out and loaded the bases with two outs, but Slavik got Lento to pop out to end the game.
Whitehead (3-1) earned the win while Slavik picked up his second save of the season. Michael Boswell (2-6) took the loss for Tiffin, allowing six runs (four earned) on six hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Rogers and freshman Micah Allen had two hits each to lead the offense. Tiffin stranded 10 runners in Game 2.
The Eagles and Dragons will conclude the series with a doubleheader on Sunday (May 6) beginning at noon.