AU Beats Cardinals, Needs Two Wins For World Series Return

AU Beats Cardinals, Needs Two Wins For World Series Return

ST. CHARLES, Mo. - The rally cap worked the other way for the Eagles.

The Ashland University baseball team trailed 3-1 headed to the eighth inning, but put a two-spot up and scored two in the ninth to rally against the William Jewell Cardinals to win 5-3 in the 2015 NCAA Midwest Regional Tournament on Saturday (May 16).

The win elevates the No. 6-seed Eagles to an overall record of 38-18, and advances them to Sunday (May 17) to face an opponent yet to be determined. Sunday's game will be at 1 p.m. Eastern. Ashland will need to win twice on Sunday to go to its first Division II College World Series since 2008.

The loss ends the No. 3-seed Cardinals' season at 38-19.

The top three seeds in the regional tournament have all been eliminated, as of the completion of Saturday's Eagles-Cardinals game. The Eagles are responsible for two of those eliminations, as they defeated the No. 2-seed Grand Valley State, 4-1, on Friday (May 15), and the No. 3-seed Cardinals Saturday. The No. 1-seed Quincy also was eliminated Saturday in a 4-1 decision against the No. 5-seed Drury.

The Cardinals' senior right fielder Luke Lucchetti led off the first with his team-leading sixth triple to the left-center gap. Third baseman Bryan Porting promptly followed with an RBI groundout that produced the first run of the game.

 William Jewell scored again in the third, as the designated hitter Dane Erbst led off with a walk and was sacrificed to second base. Lucchetti then stroked a single to left and advanced to second on the throw to third. Porting grounded out, but Erbst scored on the play. The Cardinals led 2-0 after three innings of play.

The Eagles tallied their first run of the game in the fifth, beginning with a one-out walk from senior shortstop Austin Walts. Walts scampered over to second after a wild pitch from Cardinals pitcher Nick Farleigh. Senior left fielder Kyle Brooks roped a liner to right field to put runners on the corners for the Eagles. Junior center fielder Nick Edwards plated Walts with a base hit to left field. The Eagles' run was Walts' 28th run scored and Edwards' 17th RBI on the season.

AU threatened for more, but a Cardinals 9-3-6-2 double play ended the inning.

William Jewell got a run back in the bottom of the sixth, as center fielder Hunter Brown legged out a triple to center field, followed by a double off the bat of the first baseman Andrew Miller. The Cardinals led 3-1 after six innings.

Senior second baseman Stephen James took the first pitch of the eighth and deposited into left field for the Eagles. Junior right fielder Mike Lewandowski then drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second with nobody out. After the Cardinals made a pitching change, bringing in junior Chris Mancha, he promptly walked junior first baseman Mackenzie Hampshire to load the bases.

Junior third baseman Blake Bellman grounded into a 6-4-3 double play, but James came home to score on the play. With Lewandowski on third and two out, Mancha uncorked a wild pitch, and Lewandowski was safe at home to tie the game at 3.

The AU rally was complete in the ninth when sophomore designated hitter Steve Mowry hit a bouncer that reached the left-field grass. Mowry was then bunted over to second, where that put Brooks in position to drive him in. Brooks wasted no time, jumping on a 1-1 offering and lacing it to left-center field to score Mowry. Once on base, Brooks stole second and scored on a Lewandowski single to center.

"I was just looking for a fastball, something that I could drive," said Brooks about the go-ahead hit.

Junior closer Alex Smith began the ninth inning, where he recorded two outs and had two runners on when Eagle head coach John Schaly went to his bullpen. Schaly brought on sophomore Brandyn Sittinger to get the final out. Four pitches later, the Eagles had the 5-3 victory.

Eagle starting pitcher Vince Frate pitched a quality start on Saturday, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing just three runs on six hits.

Smith earned the win, improving his record to 3-2, and Sittinger recorded his second save.