By Nicholas Huenefeld/Owens Sports Information
Toledo, Ohio---The Owens Community College baseball team took down No. 6 Cuyahoga Community College 4-2 in today's first game behind another complete game performance from Grant Peters (Eastwood/Pemberville, Ohio) and were two outs away from a sweep before Cuyahoga rallied for three runs to split a doubleheader this afternoon.
With the split, Cuyahoga (40-11, 13-1 OCCAC) clinched the conference championship. Owens (29-12, 10-4 OCCAC) needed to sweep today, as well as tomorrow, to win the title.
Both teams will meet again tomorrow at 1 p.m. The two games will mark the home finale for the Owens baseball program after the college announced the suspension of the program a few weeks ago beginning next season.
Game 1: Owens d. Cuyahoga 4-2
While Peters was tossing another gem, Owens picked up four runs in the fourth and fifth innings to pick up the win.
In the fourth, Jake Schmeltz (Eastwood/Perrysburg, Ohio) singled and advanced to third on another single from Ty Suntken (Wauseon/Wauseon, Ohio). Jake Wichlacz (Eisenhower/Macomb, Mich.) then drove him home with a sacrifice fly. It was his 48th RBI of the season.
Following that, Owens got a single from Eric Hotchkiss (Bedford/Lambertville, Mich.) and a walk from Stephen Parker (Eisenhower/Shelby Township, Mich.) to lead off the fifth. On a sacrifice bunt attempt from Casey Gose (Genoa/Genoa, Ohio), Cuyahoga's Doug Smith threw errantly to first, which allowed both runners to score.
Gose then came around on an RBI groundout from Suntken to give Owens a 4-0 lead.
Cuyahoga cut its deficit in half in the sixth when Manny Rodriguez blasted a two-run home run to left center off Peters, who bounced back to retire the final two batters of the inning. He then retired the side in order in the seventh to end the game and snap Cuyahoga's 14 game winning streak.
Schmeltz (1-for-3, R), Suntken (1-for-3, RBI) and Hotchkiss (1-for-2, R) led the Owens offense, which finished 3-for-20 against Smith (6-3), who allowed three hits, four runs (two earned) and two walks while striking out six over six.
Peters, who faced the minimum through three due to a pair of double plays in each of the first two innings, improved to 6-1 this year. He struck out the side swinging in the third inning and allowed just single base runners in three of the first four innings. He also stranded two in the fifth and one in the sixth before his 1-2-3 seventh.
The final line for Peters included seven innings, four hits, two runs, three walks and eight strikeouts. The home run from Rodriguez was the first home run Peters had given up all year.
Furthermore, Peters closes the conference season at 4-0 with a 1.35 ERA and 37 strikeouts over 26.2 innings.
Game 2: Cuyahoga d. Owens 6-4
A fielder's choice groundout from Hotchkiss scored Devin Burns (Springfield/Holland, Ohio) in the sixth inning to give Owens a 4-3 lead, but Cuyahoga rallied for three runs in the seventh to pull off the victory and clinch the conference championship.
Owens took a 3-0 lead early. In the first inning, Gose singled to left, stole second and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Suntken. Parker produced the next two runs when he lined a two-run, two-out double to right to score Zach Souter (Huron/Huron, Ohio) and Burns, who picked up back-to-back singles to lead off the inning.
Owens starter Michael Finch (Norwalk/Norwalk, Ohio) was the victim of some close calls behind the plate, but he escaped several jams over the first three innings. In the first, he stranded a pair. Then, he stranded a second runner in scoring position to end the second before stranding the bases loaded in the third.
The third inning escape came in large part to a diving catch in left center by Hotchkiss, who likely prevented a three-run triple with the play. It kept Owens up 3-2 at that point as Cuyahoga had scored a pair of runs earlier in the inning.
In the fifth, Cuyahoga chased Finch with a double to left by Vargas, a walk by John Izquierdo and a two-out RBI single from Collin Minor. Hunter Kraynak (Portage/Portage, Ind.) entered in relief and induced a flyout to strand two in scoring position and keep the game tied.
Then, Cuyahoga loaded the bases with two outs off Kraynak in the sixth, but Damian Clarke (Waterdown District/Carlisle, Ontario, Canada) came in and got a 4-3 groundout to keep the game tied and set up the rally by Owens in the bottom half.
In the seventh, Cuyahoga got a leadoff single to left from Izquierdo. After an out, he stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball on a ball four to Jesus Roldan. With runners on the corners, Windermi Mora laced a two-run double to left. After advancing to third on the throw home, Mora scored on a squeeze bunt that turned into a single from Matt Starcovic for a 6-4 lead.
Owens got a two-out single from Suntken in the home half, but a flyout ended the game.
Suntken (2-for-3, RBI), Burns (1-for-3, 2 R), Nick Wolfe (Genoa/Genoa, Ohio) (2-for-3) and Parker (1-for-3, 2 RBI) led the Owens offense.
Finch got the no decision after going four and two-thirds innings. He allowed just two hits and three runs (two earned), but walked six. He struck out four.
Kraynak walked three in one inning of work, but his ERA remained at 0.00 on the season due to the clutch out from Clarke in the sixth. Clarke, meanwhile, fell to 4-4 this season with the loss in relief. He allowed four hits, three runs and one walk while striking out one over one and one-thirds innings.
Kyle Warner (5-1) got the win for Cuyahoga. He allowed seven hits, four runs (three earned) and one walk with four strikeouts over six innings. Juan Perez picked up his sixth save of the season.
Owens will now close its home field with tomorrow's doubleheader. The games are scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., but could be moved up if the weather forces it.
Peters enters tomorrow as the league leader in wins (4), innings pitched (26.2) and strikeouts (37). He is also second in ERA at 1.35 behind Sinclair's Jake Mason (0.76 ERA). Cuyahoga's Max Lavisky, who is expected to start one of the two games tomorrow, can tie Peters for the league lead in wins.
Also, with at least one win tomorrow, Owens would reach the 30 win mark for the first time since 2010. It would be the 10th time in program history a team has reached that total, as well.
Due to its win today, Cuyahoga clinches the conference's top bid to the Region XII tournament in Battle Creek, Mich. May 18-21. Owens, meanwhile, will have to defend its title in the Sub-Region XII tournament May 11-13 to earn the conference's second bid to the Region XII tournament. The sub-regional is double elimination and will be held at Vincennes (Ind.) University May 13-15.