SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The Ashland University baseball team scored in four of the first five innings and junior starter Devin Peters was dominant over seven innings as the Eagles cruised to a 10-5 win in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at Robin Roberts Stadium on Thursday (May 17) night.
The No. 6-seed Eagles (33-20) remain in the winner's bracket and will play No. 7-seed Southern Indiana on Friday (May 18) at 9:30 p.m. ET.
The Timberwolves loaded the bases with two outs in the first inning off Peters, but he worked back from a 2-0 count to strike out Nick Palmer to end the inning. That started a string of 11 batters retired by the right-hander.
"I was just making sure I was getting ahead on my pitches," Peters said. "I worked on getting ahead and making sure I was getting the last out of the inning."
Other than a brief stretch in the fifth inning when Northwood got a three-run homer, Peters was in total command. He came back to retire the next six batters, including four via strikeouts.
"It was unreal, it's always a pleasure to catch Petey," said junior catcher Sam Hawley. "You know he's going to have his stuff every game. I played against him in junior college and it was always hard hitting against him. To have him on our side and catch him, it's awesome every time."
By the point of the homer, the AU offense had already spotted Peters a 9-0 lead against two-time reigning GLIAC Pitcher of the Year, Tyler Jandron. In the second, freshman Micah Allen doubled and eventually scored on a wild pitch before an RBI single by junior Alex Niecikowski. The Eagles would then load the bases and Hawley lifted a sac fly to right to push the lead to 3-0.
"We've seen him before, we know he's a great pitcher and take it one pitch at a time," Hawley said. "We tried to use the entire field, stay within ourselves and not do too much."
AU scored single runs in the third and fourth innings on RBI hits by Niecikowski and Allen. In the fifth the Eagles capitalized on four Northwood errors, scoring four runs, including an RBI single by sophomore Carson Mittermaier.
"It's really comfortable when you have eight, nine runs in a game and you know your defense is going to make plays behind you," Peters said.
In the seventh, senior Connor Barleben tripled into the right field corner and scored on Allen's sac fly to give the Eagles a 10-5 lead.
Peters (8-5) was done after seven innings and a season-high 11 strikeouts. He walked four and gave up just three hits.
"He threw a really good ballgame," said AU head coach John Schaly. "He's a bulldog, he's going to come at you. He's pitched in a lot of big games."
Senior left-hander Zack Whitehead finished the game with two innings of relief work. Jandron (9-3) suffered the loss, allowing five runs on nine hits. He walked three, struck out four and needed 103 pitches to get through four innings.
Every AU starter reached base in the game and the 3-4-5 hitters of Mittermaier, Barleben and Allen combined for six hits, four RBI and four runs.
No. 5 Quincy 8, No. 4 Ohio Dominican 3
No. 1 Illinois Springfield 11, No. 8 Hillsdale 2
No. 7 Southern Indiana 9, No. 2 Bellarmine 7 (12 innings)
No. 6 Ashland 10, No. 3 Northwood 5
10 a.m. CT – No. 4 Ohio Dominican vs. No. 8 Hillsdale
1:30 p.m. CT – No. 2 Bellarmine vs. No. 3 Northwood
5 p.m. CT – No. 5 Quincy vs. No. 1 Illinois Springfield
8:30 p.m. CT – No. 6 Ashland vs. No. 7 Southern Indiana