Barleben's Three Homers Spur Eagles To Twinbill Sweep

Barleben's Three Homers Spur Eagles To Twinbill Sweep

Senior outfielder Connor Barleben slugged three of Ashland's five home runs in a 24-10 rout of West Liberty before the Eagles held on for a 7-6 win in a literal nightcap to sweep a doubleheader from the Hilltoppers on Thursday (April 5) at Donges Field.

Barleben's three-homer game was the first since teammate Greg Ludwig did it against Hillsdale on March 25, 2017 in a 14-3 win. The 24 runs scored in Game 1 were the most for Ashland since a 26-2 win over Cedarville on March 22, 2016.

Ludwig hit a three-run homer to straightaway center field to open the scoring in the first inning as the Eagles (14-9) put up six runs in the opening frame.

Barleben pounded a two-run blast to center field in the second inning as part of a seven-run output that gave AU a 13-4 lead. Sophomore Michael Rogers also had a two-run single in the inning.

The Hilltoppers (9-12) got two back in the third, but Barleben's second homer – a two-run blast – made it 15-6 through three innings.

After sophomore Carson Mittermaier ripped an RBI double in the fourth, Barleben followed with a three-run shot to straightaway center field to give AU a 20-7 lead. Rogers hit a two-run home run in the sixth for AU's fifth homer of the game.

Barleben now has a team-high eight home runs and finished the game with seven RBI and four runs scored. Mittermaier was 3-for-4 with two RBI and three runs and Rogers was 3-for-5 with a a triple, a homer and five RBI.

Junior right-hander Sam Rice picked up the win in relief of starter Perry Bewley. Senior left-hander Zack Whitehead finished the game with two scoreless innings. Luke Cooper was hung with the loss for the Hilltoppers, giving up six runs in 2/3 of an inning.

After WLU scored twice in the first inning of Game 2, the Eagles responded with five runs in the bottom half. Freshman Micah Allen had a two-run double before an error extended the inning and junior Alex Niecikowski blasted an opposite-field two-run shot.

West Liberty took a 6-5 lead by scoring four runs in the third, but junior Matt Littrell tied the game in the fourth with an RBI single that scored freshman Austin Eifrid, who reached on an error.

The combination of Allen and freshman lefty Nicky Zorne kept the Hilltoppers off the board in the fifth. 

Barleben led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk and stole second base with two outs. That proved vital as Niecikowski hit the next pitch into the hole to give AU a 7-6 lead.

Freshman Josh Stover whipped through three batters in the sixth before sophomore Chance Hitchcock worked around a walk and a bunt single by striking out WLU leadoff man Vincent Haddox to end the game.

Zorne (1-0) earned the win for Ashland while Hitchcock picked up his first save. Sophomore southpaw Josh Smith tossed 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief as he followed starter Cory Teachout to the mound. Nolan Marcus (0-1) suffered the loss for the Hilltoppers.

Niecikowski was 3-for-3 in the game with three RBI as WLU out-hit the Eagles, 8-6.

The Eagles will now welcome Saginaw Valley State to Donges Field on Friday (April 6) to start a four-game GLIAC series. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.