May 16th, 2013

Knights put up baker's dozen over top seed Ashland

John Spugnardi

Bellarmine University S.I.D.

Knights put up baker's dozen over top seed Ashland
Graham Spencer crushes this pitch for a home run to lead off the sixth inning in BU's 13-10 win over Ashland / photo from

The sixth-seeded Bellarmine University baseball team continued its hot streak by cruising past the top-seeded Ashland Eagles 13-10 in the opening round of the NCAA Midwest Regional tournament today at Meador Park.

The game, which saw 10 pitchers utilized, was three and a half hour affair that the Knights won convincingly.  After a close start to the game, Bellarmine blew the game open with five runs in the top of the sixth inning to take a commanding 9-3 lead, and the Knights were never seriously threatened the rest of the way.

Senior second baseman Graham Spencer opened the pivotal sixth inning with a solo homer to left, and shortstop Justin Eberenz followed with a walk. It appeared that Bellarmine Coach Matt Tyner was going to be satisfied to play small ball after Mike Morrissette sacrificed Eberenz to second. However, the Knights exploited poor Ashland pitching and fielding to score five runs on just three base hits in the frame.  Freshman Cole Metcalfe delivered one of the clutch hits in the inning with a sharp single to left with the bases loaded to drive in Austin Crutcher and Jes Staples.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Knights squelched an Ashland comeback bid with a timely and well-executed double play to end the inning. After the Eagles had loaded the bases with just one out, Ashland left fielder Austin Erb hit a ball up the middle that BU pitcher Kyle Grana was able to get a piece of and the ball caromed to Spencer, who backhanded a throw to Eberenz at second, and he delivered a strike to Morrissette at first to gun down Erb and complete the twin-killing.

The Knights tacked on another run to extend their lead to 10-3 in the seventh. Grana's day was completed with the double-play, and the Knights brought in Austin Warner to pitch for the first time since being injured several weeks ago. Unfortunately, the freshman lefty's return did not go well as all three Ashland batters he faced reached base and eventually came in to score as BU pitchers Cory Thomas and Curtis McCombs also saw action in the inning.

Bellarmine answered the Ashland rally in the top of the eighth, when catcher Nick Hladek crushed a three-homer that just missed the scoreboard in left-center.

Ashland made one last run at the Knights in the ninth. With a light, but steady rain falling, McCombs seemed to tire as the right-hander retired just one of the first five Ashland batters in the ninth. Justin Strohmeier relieved with a run already in and the bases loaded. Strohmeier recorded the final two outs, but not before all three inherited runs scored. The four-run inning cut the final margin to 13-10.

The Knights had standout performances up and down the lineup as eight of Bellarmine's nine batters recorded at least one hit. Crutcher and Cody Scheler each had three base knocks on the game, and Metcalfe ended with four RBIs to lead the Knights. For the game, Bellarmine banged out 16 total hits.

Grana posted a solid outing on the mound, allowing three runs in six innings of work.

The Knights improve to 30-21 on the season while Ashland falls to 36-18. Bellarmine will get the loser of the Grand Valley-St. Joseph's (3 and 4 seeds) game at 2:30 p.m. CDT (3:30 EDT) tomorrow. Ashland will play the loser of the Drury-Lewis (2 and 5 seeds).


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