The SVSU baseball team lost three games against No. 15 Ashland over the weekend, with the fourth game of the series concluding after The Valley Vanguard went to press.
SVSU’s offense mustered just two hits in each of the first two games of the series, falling 4-1 and 4-2, respectively.
Despite the struggles at the plate, each of the Cardinal starting pitchers turned in excellent performances.
“We’re battling – we’re in the games. I thought we pitched the ball very well,” head coach Steve Jaksa said. “From an offensive standpoint, I felt we got out of our game plan a little bit.”
In game one of the series on Friday, April 5, junior Amani Godfrey threw six-and-twothirds innings, allowing just three earned runs and striking out seven.
“I felt pretty good throughout the game for the most part,” Godfrey said. “I felt like I hit my spots pretty well and made some really good pitches against a top-notch team that battled like crazy.”
Ashland jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning, but SVSU tied it in the bottom of the fifth when sophomore Andrew Burke singled and scored freshman Logan Russo.
AU took the lead back almost immediately in the top of the sixth on an RBI single from junior Jason Swope, making it 2-1. The Eagles added an insurance run in the top of the ninth and won the game 4-1.
Burke and junior Austin Koin had the lone hits for SVSU.
In the series’ second game, played on Saturday, April 6, it was junior Brandon Wise’s stellar start on the mound that kept SVSU in the game. Wise threw five-and-twothirds innings, allowing just five hits and two runs, striking out three.
“The guys behind me played very well like usual, and we were right in the game at the end, and that’s all you can ask for,” Wise said. “Any good start you have, regardless of who you’re playing, can motivate you and help you moving forward.”
Wise actually carried a scoreless game into the top of the sixth inning, but a two-run home run to right-center field by senior Matt Littrell with two outs put the Eagles up 2-0.
The Cardinals got a run back in the bottom of the sixth, but two additional Eagle runs in the top of the seventh gave the Eagles the insurance they needed.
SVSU junior Joshua Riggs homered to center in the bottom of the seventh to make it 4-2, but it was too little, too late for SVSU. Freshman Anthony Kania added the Cardinals’ other hit in the contest.
Saturday’s second game, the third in the series, saw the SVSU offense come to life with seven hits, but the result on the scoreboard remained about the same – a 3-1 Ashland win.
“In the last game (Saturday), we did fight back a little bit better, but I think overall, we could even do better yet,” Jaksa said.
Sophomore Camden Dice delivered the Cardinals’ third straight impressive start on the mound, going six strong innings and allowing three runs, only one earned.
Dice said he didn’t feel like his usual self in warm-ups, but that all changed once the game began.
“I just hit my spots really well,” he said. “Seth (Stratton) had a good game behind the plate as well. Ashland is just a really good team. They were very disciplined while hitting. … Pitching well against them definitely gives me some more confidence going forward.”
In the scorebook, the Cardinals committed four errors in the game, but Jaksa said mental mistakes also played a key role in the close defeat.
“There’s a learning curve of the mental toughness, and I think we’re going to get better at it,” Jaksa said. “They want to do it, and my job is to teach them how to do it.”
After falling behind 2-0, the result of an unearned run in both the third and fourth innings, the Cardinals got back within one when senior Craig Wilson hit an infield single that scored junior Collin Winters.
However, the Cardinals wouldn’t cross home plate again for the remainder of the game. AU added an insurance run in the top of the sixth when Michael Rogers homered, putting the nail in the coffin on a 3-1 Ashland win.
At the plate, SVSU was led by Wilson and senior Jordan Swiss, who each had two hits apiece. Senior Derrek Clyde, Winters and Stratton all had one hit.
The Cardinals return to action on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week for single game sets against Hillsdale and Lawrence Tech.
Over the weekend, the team travels to rival Northwood for a four-game weekend series followed by a single-game set at Dow Diamond in Midland on Tuesday, April 16