By Nicholas Huenefeld/Owens Sports Information
Toledo, OH---The Express closed their season with a fourth-place finish in the NJCAA Region XII Sub-Regional Tournament over the weekend.
With losses of 7-4 to Cuyahoga Community College and 5-3 to Vincennes University, the Express saw their first season under head coach Del Young come to an end with a record of 25-13 overall (9-5 OCCAC).
Game 1: Cuyahoga 7, Owens 4
In the tournament's opening game, the Express gave up five costly runs over a three inning period that cost them a 4-2 lead and, ultimately, the game.
Cuyahoga opened the game's scoring with two runs (one earned) in the top half of the first off Express starter Zak Esposito (Sandusky/Sandusky, Ohio).
Owens then answered back with a sacrifice fly by Ryan Hotmer (Lake/Walbridge, Ohio) in the bottom of the inning that scored Joe Sickler (Bowling Green/Bowling Green, Ohio), who had led off the inning with a single to left field.
Neither team scored again until the home half of the third when the Express plated three runs to take a 4-2 lead.
The inning started when Austin Gunn (Delta/Delta, Ohio) walked. After a strikeout, Gunn stole second base. Following another walk to Blake Schmenk (Perrysburg/Perrysburg, Ohio) that put runners on first and second, Garrett Busch (Start/Toledo, Ohio) laced a two-run double to right center. Nate Miceli (Berea/Berea, Ohio) then entered as a courtesy runner for Busch and scored one out later on a single through the left side by Jesse Solomon (Wayne/Huber Heights, Ohio).
After Cuyahoga tied the game back up in the next half inning, Andy Joseph (Southview/Toledo, Ohio) relieved Esposito with the game tied at four in the fifth inning.
The Challengers then produced two unearned runs in the fifth and one more in the sixth off Joseph to put the Express away.
Aside from a one out walk to Sickler in the seventh inning, Cuyahoga reliever Tyler Chapin retired every batter he faced from the time he entered to begin the fourth inning.
Chapin therefore picked up the win, while Joseph (4-2) took the loss.
Busch (2-3, 2B, 2 RBIs) and Solomon (2-3, RBI) led the Express at the plate. With the loss, Owens fell into the loser's bracket.
Game 2: Vincennes 5 Owens 3
The Express jumped out to a 3-1 lead after two innings, but Vincennes forced extra innings and scored two in the eighth to get the victory.
Vincennes initially took the lead with an unearned run in the top half of the first before the Express answered back to take the lead in the bottom half.
Sickler doubled to left field and Schmenk singled on a bunt to put runners on first and third. Busch then produced a second bunt single for the Express in the inning to score Sickler. Schmenk later scored on an error after a fielder's choice groundout by Hotmer to put Owens up 2-1.
After Express starter Titus Pierce (Eastern/Reedsville, Ohio) held Vincennes scoreless in the second, Owens added a third run in the bottom half on an RBI single up the middle by Gunn. Danny Schira (Switzerland County/Vevay, Ind.), who reached on a single to begin the inning, scored on the play.
Vincennes then tied the game in the fourth on two sacrifice flies. Following that, the game remained scoreless until Vincennes plated their two game winning runs off Express reliever Kelley Wagner (Brownstown/Brownstown, Ind.) in the eighth inning.
Wagner was pitching his third inning of relief in the eighth. Pierce went the first five while allowing six hits, three walks, and three runs (two earned), while striking out five. Wagner (2-2) took the loss with his three innings of three hit baseball.
In the sixth inning, Wagner relieved Pierce when Vincennes had put runners on second and third with no outs. Wagner worked some magic and helped the Express escape the inning unscathed.
At the plate, the Express managed only six hits in their eight innings with five of those hits coming in the first two innings. They did produce six additional base runners via walks including two each by Busch and Daniel Heatherly (Trenton/Trenton, Mich.)
Cuyahoga won the tournament and advanced to the NJCAA Region XII Tournament. After defeating Owens in the opening game, Tri-C defeated Lakeland C.C. 5-4 in the opening game of the second day, and then defeated Lakeland once again in the championship 3-2. Lakeland had defeated Vincennes 3-2 in the tournament's second game, and after losing to Cuyahoga in the winner's bracket final, forced a rematch with Cuyahoga based on their 5-1 win over Vincennes.