PADUCAH, Ky - It was win or go home at Brooks Stadium in Paducah, Ky. for the Redhawks as they played Morehead State in the first elimination game of the Ohio Valley Tournament.
The Redhawks (26-25) got a strong pitching performance from Corey Harness, but two runs in the 11th inning by the Eagles (20-31) doomed the Redhawks and sent them packing after a 7-5 loss. The Redhawks lost their first two games of the OVC tournament for the first time since the 2005 season.
The Redhawks offense got off to a quick start as leadoff batter Nick Harris singled through the left side of the infield for a single. Harris stole his 17th base of the season and advanced to third on the throwing error that skipped into center field. Justin Wheeler drove home Harris with a single up the middle to give the Redhawks the early 1-0 lead. Morehead State leads the nation in double-plays turned this season and they were at it again as starting pitcher Quentin Morgan induced Tyrell Cummings into the 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.
Another error by the Eagles would come back to haunt them in the second inning as they had another chance to turn a double-play ball to end the inning but shortstop Drew Lee was unable to handle the toss from second baseman Travis Redmon as Louie Haseltine slid into second. Instead of the Eagles getting out of the inning unharmed, the Redhawks now had runners on first and second with one out. After Kenton Parmley loaded the bases on a bloop single to right field, Trenton Moses drove in his first run of the tournament on a ground-out to second base to give the Redhawks the 2-0 lead after two innings played.
Meanwhile, Redhawks starting pitcher, Corey Harness was dominating on the mound as he was yet to allow a hit through four innings.
The Redhawks looked poised to tack on a couple more runs after Matt Wagner led off the fourth inning with a walk. Haseltine drove a ball deep to center field but J.D. Ashbrook was able to track down the deep drive on the warning track to record the first out of the inning. With a 3-2 count on Tony Spencer, the Redhawks tried to hit and run with Wagner on first, but that plan backfired as Spencer struck out swinging and Wagner was gunned down at second as the Eagles turned their second double-play of the day.
The Eagles were finally able to get to Harness in the fifth inning. After a leadoff walk to Eric Bainer, No. 8 hitter Luke Bainer homered to left field and just like that the Redhawks lead was gone. Two batters later things got worse for the Redhawks as J.D. Ashbrook stepped up to the plate and delivered a no-doubter over the left field fence to give the Eagles a 3-2 lead.
After allowing four hits in the first two innings, starting pitcher Quentin Morgan had settled in and allowed only one hit over the next three innings.
Cummings singled through the left side of the infield to leadoff the bottom of the sixth, but the Eagle defense was at it again as they turned their third double-play of the game, this time off the bat of Jim Klocke.
Harness shutdown the Eagles 1-2-3 in the seventh and had retired eight straight batters after allowing the homerun to Ashbrook back in the fifth inning to keep the Redhawks in the game.
The Redhawks bats had reawaken in the seventh as Haseltine led off the inning with his second hit of the day. After a passed ball and a strikeout, the Redhawks now had a runner in scoring position with only one out. Parmley singled through the left side of the infield for his second hit of the day to give the Redhawks men at the corners. Morgan's day was now over as he handed the ball over Michael Bottoms. Moses dropped down a safety squeeze bunt to score Haseltine and tied the game at 3-3. Bottoms would retire the next two batters to get out of the jam and head to the eighth inning tied.
Morgan lasted 6.1 innings allowing three runs (one earned) on eight hits and one walk. He struckout three and recorded a no-decision.
Morehead State answered back in the top of the eighth as they scored two runs. After hitting Daniel Pugh the Eagles had one on with one out. Lee stepped up to the plate and hit what looked to be a double-play ball to second, but Spencer had trouble getting the ball out of his glove and was only able to get the lead runner out at second. After a single and a walk, the Eagles now had bases loaded with one out and Harness's day was done. John Salazar relieved Harness and Bottoms greeted him with a two-run single to left field to give the Eagles the 5-3 lead.
Harness lasted 7.2 innings allowing five runs on four hits and three walk. He struckout five and recorded a no-decision.
The Redhawks were down, but not out entering the bottom of the eighth. Cummings led off the frame with a single to left field and Klocke followed up with his first hit of the tournament. The Redhawks now had men on second and third with no outs. Wagner grounded out to first but drove in Cummings and moved Klocke to third. Haseltine tallied his third hit of the game and drove in Klocke to knot the game up at 5-5. Two batters later Parmley lined a shot into the left field corner and coach Hogan decided to send Haseltine home after left fielder Cameron Flynn fell down, but a quick relay throw nailed Haseltine at home to end the eighth.
Salazar retired the Eagles 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth and gave the Redhawks a chance to win it in the bottom half of the inning, but the Redhawks were unable to get anything going and extra innings were coming up.
Klocke led off the bottom of the tenth with his second hit of the day and Wagner moved Klocke to second with a sacrifice bunt. After an intentional pass to Haseltine, Spencer who had one hit in his last 19 at-bats stepped to the plate. The 1-1 pitch hit Spencer in the arm, but the home plate umpire said that Spencer didn't make an attempt to get out of the way so he stayed up to bat. After a fly-out by Spencer, Parmley singled to left field and Klocke was held at third, but the left fielder sailed his throw to the backstop and Klocke tried to score, but got caught up between third and home and was thrown out at third to end the inning.
After a two-out walk to L. Bainer, the No. 9 hitter Redmon, who was hitless in the tournament, drove a double to right field that skipped past Cummings after he made a sliding attempt at the ball, which allowed Bainer to come around and score the go ahead run. The Eagles tacked on one more run as Ashbrook drove in Redmon.
Salazar pitched 3.1 innings of relief allowing two runs on two hits and two walk. He struckout three and was handed his fifth loss of the season.
Bottoms pitched 4.2 innings of relief allowing two runs on seven hits and two walks. He struckout four and earned his third victory of the season.
The Redhawks outhit the Eagles 15-6. Spencer went 0-5 from the plate and ended the season in a 1 for 20 slump. Haseltine recorded three hits and scored two runs. Parmley posted four hits in five at-bats. The Eagles recorded six hits and drew five walks.