By Nicholas Huenefeld/Owens Sports Information
Toledo, OH---The Express (23-11, 7-5) picked up two huge wins as they swept Cuyahoga Community College at home to keep their OCCAC title hopes alive.
The Express have four OCCAC games remaining - two more with Cuyahoga CC on a date TBA and two vs. Lakeland Community College Wednesday. If they should win all four games, they will split the OCCAC regular season title with Sinclair Community College.
Game 1: Owens 5 Cuyahoga 4
The Express came back from a three-run deficit after five innings and culminated the comeback by benefiting from a two-run error by Cuyahoga's right fielder to win in walk-off fashion.
In the sixth, Jesse Solomon (Wayne/Huber Heights, Ohio) singled with one out before Danny Schira (Switzerland County/Vevay, Ind.) followed that up with a single to centerfield. After the next batter struck out, both runners advanced on a passed ball. Michael Louis (Normandy/Parma, Ohio) then entered the game as a pinch hitter and delivered a two-run double to right center - cutting the lead to one at 4-3.
After Kelley Wagner (Brownstown/Brownstown, Ind.) capped an impressive two inning performance with his second 1-2-3 inning, his teammates produced a two-out, nobody on rally in the seventh.
Blake Schmenk (Perrysburg/Perrysburg, Ohio) drew a walk before Ryan Hotmer (Lake/Millbury, Ohio) lined a single down the third base line to put runners on first and second. Then, Daniel Heatherly (Trenton/Trenton, Mich.) hit a ball deep to right field that Cuyahoga's right fielder had bounce off his body, allowing Schmenk and Hotmer to round the bases just in time.
After Cuyahoga scored a run in the first to take an early lead, the Express answered back with a run of their own when Joe Sickler (Bowling Green/Bowling Green, Ohio) scored on a throwing error.
Neither team scored again until Cuyahoga's three run fifth inning off Express starter Zak Esposito (Sandusky/Sandusky, Ohio). Prior to that, Esposito had a no-hitter going, and his final line included four runs (three earned), two hits, five walks and two strikeouts.
Wagner picked up the win in relief, while Schultz took the loss for Cuyahoga.
Heatherly, Solomon and Schira each had two hits for the Express, while Solomon added a run.
Game 2: Owens 5 Cuyahoga 0
After the first game ended in momentum swinging fashion, Owens carried it over with a shutout behind Jordan Basinger (Kalida/Kalida, Ohio), Hotmer and Wagner.
With one out in the first, Schmenk walked. Then, with two outs, he stole second and scored on a single down the left field line by Hotmer.
The Express stretched their lead to 3-0 in the third inning on an RBI double by Hotmer and an RBI single by Solomon. Then, in the fifth, Schmenk had an RBI single and Solomon had an RBI groundout to make it 5-0.
Following the same script as the first game, Basinger pitched the first five innings before Wagner entered in the sixth.
Basinger picked up the win as he allowed only three hits while walking four and striking out five. He ran into a little trouble in the fifth as Cuyahoga loaded the bases with two outs. However, Basinger induced a fielder's choice groundout to end the threat.
Wagner allowed only a walk in his two innings. For the day, he pitched four innings, faced one over the minimum, didn't allow any hits, and struck out five.
Of the five hits for the Express, Hotmer led the way with a 2-for-2 performance which included a run scored, a walk and two RBIs. One of his hits was a double. Solomon went 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
Sickler and Schmenk picked up the other two hits. For the day, Express pitchers only allowed five hits for the visiting Challengers.