Starters Strong as Storm Splits Sunday, Series at Hillsdale

Michael Backes (Photo by Tom Cammett/Diamond Images, Inc.)

PAINESVILLE, OHIO – The Lake Erie College baseball team got two strong starts on Sunday (April 3) at Hillsdale College to earn a split of a doubleheader, as well as the four-game series.  After dropping a 3-2 decision in extra innings in the opener, the Storm bounced back to take the finale 5-3 following a 30-minute lightning delay.

Freshman Brian Kilway (Tallmadge, Ohio/Tallmadge) and sophomore Michael Backes (Hubbard, Ohio/Hubbard) combined to allow just four earned runs in 13 innings of work with just one walk and nine strikeouts.  The Storm (9-11, 2-6 GLIAC) staff did not yield an extra base hit in either game.

However, it was only Backes (2-0) who earned a victory.  Backed by a three-run third inning and an  early 4-0 lead, Backes scattered six hits in 5 2/3 innings in the nightcap. He allowed three runs (two earned) with a walk and four strikeouts.  Freshman D.J. Stastny (Macedonia, Ohio/Trinity) pitched a hitless 1 1/3 inning to earn his first save.

Kilway (0-2) pitched better than his fate.  He didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning and allowed only four in 7 1/3 innings of work.  Staked to a 2-0 lead on RBI by senior Brandon James (Mentor, Ohio/Mentor) in the first and third innings, Kilway surrendered two runs on three singles and a balk with two outs in the fifth, with Mike Blanchard delivering a two-run single to tie the game.

After neither team scored a run in the sixth or seventh, the teams went into extra innings.  A single and steal by sophomore Cody Blood (Conneaut, Ohio/Conneaut) gave the Storm (9-11, 2-6 GLIAC) a runner on second with one out, but he was stranded there.

Matt Pochmara led off the bottom of the eighth with a single and advanced to second on an error. He was then sacrificed to third, ending Kilway's afternoon.  Two batters later Anthony Giarmo singled off reliever Ryan Rua (Amherst, Ohio/Amherst) to win it for the Chargers (9-15, 5-5 GLIAC).

Lake Erie had 12 hits in the opening game, including a 4-for-4 performance with two doubles by Rua.  Blood and classmate Pat Kilway (Tallmadge, Ohio/Tallmadge) each had two hits. However, the Storm stranded 11 runners on base in the game, with James' ground out and single the only plays to score runs for LEC.

In game two, the Storm jumped out to a 4-0 lead after three innings, which included a 30-minute lightning delay. Junior Matt Toth (Lorain, Ohio/Admiral King) scored on a double-play in the first and James drove in a run and scored a run during a three-run third inning.

Pochmara, who had two hits in game one, singled in a run in the fourth for Hillsdale to cut the Storm lead to three.  Lake Erie responded in the sixth with back-to-back doubles by junior Josh Crout (Hamilton, Ohio/Edgewood) and Blood to push the lead to 5-1.

The Chargers loaded the bases in their half of the sixth and scored on a sacrifice fly by Pat O'Hearn and then got an unearned run later in the frame before Stastny got Giarmo to fly out to centerfield to end the threat. 

He followed with a perfect seventh to seal the win.

Rua had two more hits in game two, finishing with six on the day, and Toth scored twice in the finale after also scoring a run in the first game.

Pochmara and Giarmo were the only Chargers to have hits in both games.  Jonathan Gregg (2-2) earned the win in game two with two scoreless innings of relief after starter Brent Opland went six, allowing two runs on 11 hits.  P.J. Cooley (2-2) took the loss in game two after allowing three runs in two innings of work, despite giving up just one hit. He did walk five batters.

The Storm travels to Ashland University on Wednesday, April 6, for a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference doubleheader with the nationally ranked Eagles beginning at 2 p.m.

-LEC-