No. 13 Express Splits With Lakeland In OCCAC Opener

By Nicholas Huenefeld/Owens Sports Information

Toledo, OH---The No. 13-ranked Express split a doubleheader against Lakeland Community College in their conference opener on Sunday amid cold and windy conditions, losing the opener 16-9 before taking the nightcap 5-3.

Game 1: Lakeland 16 Owens 9

The Express stranded 13 runners and failed to capitalize on a few opportunities to put Lakeland away as they fell 16-9.

The offensive star of the day for the Express, Ryan Hotmer (Lake/Millbury, Ohio), had a two-run triple to open the scoring in the first inning. Matt Hayes (North/Pickerington, Ohio) then had an RBI groundout before Michael Louis (Normandy/Parma, Ohio) lined an RBI single through the middle to put Owens up 4-0 after one.

However, Owens left the bases loaded in the inning. Then, in the second, they left them loaded again while failing to add to their lead.

Lakeland then took advantage as they scored five in the third inning on five hits to take the lead. The Lakers chased Express starter Jordan Basinger (Kalida/Kalida, Ohio) late in the inning as Kelley Wagner (Brownstown/Brownstown, Ind.) relieved him.

Owens then answered back to tie it at five in the bottom half on an RBI groundout by Joe Sickler (Bowling Green/Bowling Green, Ohio).

The game remained tied until the bottom of the fifth. The game then became an offensive showcase as 15 runs were scored over the next two and a half innings.

Hotmer and Garrett Busch (Start/Toledo, Ohio) laced RBI singles to put Owens up 7-5 before a fielding error allowed the Express to take an 8-5 lead into the sixth.

The lead didn't last long as Lakeland had four singles and a walk to chase Wagner. Daniel Heatherly (Trenton/Trenton, Mich.) then entered a tie game, but gave up a run-scoring single to allow Lakeland to take a 9-8 lead into the bottom half of the sixth.

Hotmer then came up big again for the Express with an RBI single to left field to tie it back up heading into the seventh.

However, Heatherly and the fourth Express pitcher, Shawn Downey (Martinsville/Martinsville, Ind.), allowed seven runs on five hits, two walks and a hit batter in the seventh to allow Lakeland to take a 16-9 lead. Owens then went down 1-2-3 in the bottom half.

Heatherly (1-2) took the loss for Owens, while Joe Taylor picked up the win in relief for Lakeland.

Hotmer finished 4-for-5 with two runs and four RBI. Busch and Louis each added two hits and an RBI apiece.

The almost three-hour game featured eight pitchers, 23 runs, 27 hits, 13 walks and six errors.

Game 2: Owens 5 Lakeland 3

Owens jumped out to a 4-0 lead, once again, after two innings. However, Express starter Zak Esposito (Sandusky/Sandusky, Ohio) made sure the result wasn't the same in a 5-3 victory.

Sickler tripled to lead off the Express half of the first before Jesse Solomon (Wayne/Huber Heights, Ohio) singled him in to open the scoring.

Later in the inning, Travis Tackett (Switzerland County/Vevay, Ind.) laced a single to center to score Solomon, and Scott Robinson (Coventry/Coventry, Ohio) capped the scoring with an RBI triple to right center to give Owens a 3-0 lead after one.

An RBI double to left field in the second by Solomon gave the Express a 4-0 lead. Esposito then struck out the side in the third, but the Lakers cut the lead to one when they scored their only three runs against him in the next inning.

Robinson added an RBI double for the Express in the fifth inning to cap the scoring for the game.

Esposito (4-0) went the distance while allowing three runs, five hits and two walks. He struck out 11 Lakers along the way.

Solomon, along with Robinson, led Owens offensively with two hits and two RBI each. Solomon also scored a run.

Matt Palko took the loss for Lakeland (4-9, 1-1 OCCAC).

Owens (15-3, 1-1 OCCAC) will travel to Grand Rapids Community College at 3 p.m. Tuesday.