TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. – The Ashland University baseball team won its second GLIAC Tournament championship with an 8-2 victory over Saginaw Valley on Sunday (May 12) afternoon.
The Eagles (41-11), as the regular season champions and No. 1 seed in the tournament, came back from a 1-1 record to win three straight and secure the tournament trophy for the first time since 2013.
This year's team consists of seven seniors, who raised their first tournament trophy as Eagles.
"It's so special, they're such a great group, the seven seniors," said head coach John Schaly, who won his 800th game as AU's head coach with the title. "They're leaders, good young men who do a great job on the field and off the field. I like seeing them get to celebrate."
The Eagles now look ahead to the NCAA Division II Tournament where they will likely serve as a host of one of the two split Midwest Regional tournaments. The tournament field will be announced Sunday at 10 p.m. with play starting Thursday (May 16).
"It's the best, but we've still got more to come," said AU senior reliever Ryan Curtis, who earned the win with four shutout innings out of the pen. "We're still not done. We're ready to go for next weekend."
On Sunday, the Eagles fell behind, giving up single runs in the third and fourth innings before tying the game at 2 in the bottom of the fourth when they loaded the bases with no outs. A double play brought one run in before a two-out RBI single by sophomore Dillan Smith tied the game.
Curtis, in relief of starter Max Frederick, came on in the fourth to get out of a jam, then got a double play in the fifth and stranded two Cardinals (21-29-1) in the sixth.
Singles by sophomore Micah Allen and Smith put two runners on with one out in the bottom of the sixth for junior Garett Robberts, who poked an RBI double just inside the third-base bag. After a hit-by-pitch and a groundout, sophomore Austin Eifrid ripped a two-run double down the right-field line to push AU's advantage to 5-2.
Curtis set down the Cardinals in order in the seventh and turned the ball over to junior lefty Josh Smith with two on and one down in the eighth. Smith induced two ground outs to end the threat.
"I was feeling good, everything felt good," said Curtis. "I had all my pitches and the defense played well behind me. That's all I can ask for when I'm out there. It feels great to go out and win it for the boys."
Ashland tacked on three insurance runs in the eighth to put the game away, including a two-run single by junior Jason Swope.
Senior right-hander Devin Peters finished the game off in the ninth inning.
Frederick did not factor in the decision, but pitched well, tossing 3 1/3 innings and allowing two runs on five hits.
The Eagles out-hit the Cardinals, 12-9, led by Allen and Smith, who had two each. Every AU hitter reached base in the game.
The Eagles will now await their seeding and opponents for next week's Midwest Regional. The selection show will air live on NCAA.com at 10 p.m. Sunday (May 12) night.