Ninth Inning Rally Sends 'Wolves Past Eagles

Austin Walts
Austin Walts

            Every series, whether it be book, television or movie, usually hits a dry spell with material.

            That could be one way to look at the Ashland University Eagles, after they dropped a 3-2 decision to Northwood on Sunday (Apr. 14) at Donges Field.

            The Timberwolves scored two runs in the ninth inning to wipe out a 2-1 AU advantage. The win allowed Northwood to win the weekend series, two games to one. This is only the second series the 14th-ranked Eagles have lost this season. On Apr. 29-30, Ashland lost two of three games at Walsh.

            Ashland is 23-10, 12-6 in the GLIAC. The Timberwolves are 12-15 and 7-9. The Eagles would contend that those numbers don't give a true indication of how the 'Wolves are playing right now. In this weekend series, Northwood pitched well and came up with timely hitting.

            This Sunday game was a tense affair from start to finish and it was dominated by the pitchers. AU sophomore right-hander Vince Frate (North Royalton, Ohio) gave the Eagles a good 8.1 innings. Until the ninth inning, Frate (2-3) rarely worked from behind. He allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits. Frate walked one and struck out four.

            Northwood starter Steven Latos pitched the first 4.2 innings and in the early going, appeared to be unhittable. Latos retired the first 10 men he faced. The first Ashland hit was a single to right field by outfielder Austin Erb (Mechanicsville, Va./Hanover). Erb moved to second on a wild pitch and came in to score on a two-out single to left field by first baseman Tyler Gray (Plain City, Ohio/Jonathan Alder).

            Gray's single tied the game. The Timberwolves scored a run in the third inning on a two-out single by designated hitter Anthony Dipaolo. Dipaolo was 3-for-5.

            AU went ahead in the fifth inning when freshman outfielder Luke Burch (Millersburg, Ohio) served a two-out, 0-2 pitch into left that scored shortstop Austin Walts (Amherst, Ohio/Amherst Steele). Walts had singled and reached second on a stolen base.

            Latos left in the middle of the fifth inning and the Timberwolves turned to lefty Cody Fenskie. On Saturday, Fenskie earned his first save of the season. Sunday, he threw 4.1 scoreless innings. He allowed two hits, walked two and struck out two.

            The Timberwolves nearly tied the game in the seventh inning. With two outs and an a runner on second, Northwood center fielder Jake Oard drove a ground ball hard into the hole at shortstop. Walts made the stop and a strong, accurate throw to retired the speedy Oard.

            In the top of the ninth inning with Ashland ahead, 2-1, NU first baseman Eric Altman singled to right field off of Frate. A sacrifice bunt moved Altman to second and Frate walked pinch hitter Travis Smith. Second baseman Cody Rogers singled sharply to left to drive in Jordan Turner, who was running for Altman. That tied the game, 2-2.

            Frate was pulled in favor of David Devine (Massillon, Ohio/Massillon Jackson). Oard, banged out his second hit of the game, a single to left field, to bring in Seth Szafranski, who was pinch running for Smith. That gave the Timberwolves a one-run lead.

            Devine got out of the inning without any more damage and in the bottom of the ninth, designated hitter Mackenzie Hampshire (Delphos, Ohio) drew a one-out walk. That was the lone runner who reached base in the inning. Fenskie (2-2) retired the last two batters to conclude the game.

            AU has won four of its last six games. Ashland's next 10 games will be played on the road.