CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Even a pair of valiant comeback efforts by the University of Rio Grande couldn’t keep the RedStorm from a rendezvous with a dubious distinction in the record book.
Lourdes University recorded a doubleheader sweep for the second straight day, hanging on late in both ends of the twinbill for wins of 6-4 and 16-14 in nine innings at VA Memorial Stadium.
The Gray Wolves opened the season at 4-0 for the first time in program history as a result of the wins and earned their first four-game series sweep of an opponent since taking four straight games from Cornerstone University during the 2014 season.
Rio Grande, on the other hand, slipped to 0-11 out of the gate and may very well have secured the worst start to a season in program history, eclipsing the 0-10 start to the 1999 campaign by the then-Redmen.
Prior to this season, the RedStorm had never lost more than six consecutive games to begin a season under current head coach Brad Warnimont.
Win number one in 2020 looked like it might be on the horizon in Sunday’s opener after Rio mounted an eighth-inning rally to erase a 3-1 deficit.
Freshman Austin Kendall’s (Troy, OH) two-out, bases-loaded single to shallow center appeared to tie the game, but after senior Walter Baker III (Louisville, KY) scored from third, freshman Carter Smith (Point Pleasant, WV) was called out by the plate umpire on the relay throw home.
Still photographs and video replay clearly showed that Smith beat the throw to score the tying run, but the controversial decision left the Gray Wolves in front, 3-2, heading to the ninth inning.
Harrison Jackson added a two-run triple in the top of the ninth before crossing himself on a single by Cameron Gallo for a 6-2 cushion.
Rio Grande got an RBI single by freshman Trey Carter (Wheelersburg, OH) and subsequent run-scoring triple by senior Isaiah Lewis (Willingboro, NJ) to pull within 6-4, but Baker III and Smith – each representing the tying run – were retired routinely to settle the issue once and for all.
Carter finished 3-for-5, while Kendall and senior Juan Familia (Reading, PA) had two hits each. Sophomore Peyton Overturf (West Frankfort, IL) also had an RBI double.
Graduate senior Zach Kendall (Troy, OH) deserved a better fate, but suffered the loss. The right-hander allowed just five hits and two runs – one earned – over seven innings. He walked one and fanned eight.
Kolby Rogge started and got the win for Lourdes, allowing seven hits and one run over 6-2/3 innings.
Jackson, Gallo, Sedrick Gonzalez and Reilly Walters all had two hits in the win for Lourdes.
Game two, originally scheduled for seven innings, turned out to be a 3-hour, 53-minute nine-inning marathon and one of the wilder contests the RedStorm has played in some time.
Lourdes cruised into the bottom of the seventh with a 14-5 lead, but Rio Grande sent 14 players to the plate as part of an improbable 9-run rally to tie the contest. Freshman Tristan Arno (Elyria, OH) and sophomore II-Zadod Gabriel (Toledo, OH) delivered consecutive two-run doubles in the frame, while senior Caden Cluxton (Washington Court House, OH) had a run-scoring triple and freshman Albert Bobadilla (Bronx, NY) contributed a run-scoring double.
The Gray Wolves scored twice in the top of the ninth thanks to a throwing error and a run-scoring hit by Gallo, setting the stage for a dramatic home ninth.
Cluxton tripled for a second time with one out and Bobadilla followed with a walk, putting the winning run at the plate for the RedStorm, but Lewis struck out for the second out of the inning and sophomore Cole Dyer (Wheelersburg, OH) was retired on a long drive to left-center, which Lourdes’ Brad Ammonds caught a step in front of the fence, to close out the game.
Ammons and Glen Crabtree had two hits each for Lourdes, with Crabtree, Jay Denman and Zak Mon driving in two runs each.
Max Lojko, the last of seven pitchers for the Gray Wolves, picked up the win.
Smith, the sixth of seven pitchers for Rio, suffered the loss.
Cluxton finished 4-for-6 for the RedStorm, while Lewis had three hits and two RBI and Gabriel finished 2-for-5 with three RBI. Arno also drove in two runs in a losing cause.
Rio Grande is slated to return to action on Saturday when ninth-ranked Indiana Tech visits Bob Evans Field for a four-game weekend series.
Doubleheaders are set for Saturday and Sunday, beginning at noon each day, as the RedStorm opens the home portion of their schedule.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.