CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – The game may have been at a neutral site – at V.A. Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio – but nothing else about Friday's game against Northwood (Mich.) was stuck in neutral. The Storm and Timberwolves charged ahead, retreated, re-loaded and rallied, trading bat-and-ball haymakers until a final twin killing in the bottom of the ninth retired one team while the other was one run in front.
That's the way it went in a wild one that saw Lake Erie down Northwood, 8-7, on Friday evening. Seemingly carrying forth momentum from a Thursday sweep of Ohio Dominican, the Storm (9-7) jumped out to a 7-1 lead. The Northwood Timberwolves (7-7) then mounted a furious comeback, scoring six unanswered runs. A 7-7 tie was erased on a wild play in the top of the ninth, and then LEC protected its one-run lead with one of several outstanding defensive plays on the night in the bottom of the ninth.
Friday's contest marked the first game of a three-game set between the Storm and Timberwolves. The series was relocated from Midland, Mich., and justly so – game-time temperature on Friday was 68 degrees.
Left-hander Heath Kelley started for Lake Erie, and the junior port-sider gave the Storm five strong innings. On his watch the Green & White scored seven runs – LEC plated four runs in the third inning and three in the fourth. The top three in the Lake Erie order – Aaron Lindgren, Lucas Raley and Zack DeCamp – figured prominently in the Storm's peppering of NU starter Andrew Joseph with base hits and base runner advancement.
Kelley gave back one run in his last inning, the fifth, and the LEC bullpen took over with the Storm leading, 7-2. Two walks loomed large in the Timberwolves getting two runs in the sixth, and then designated hitter Travis Smith clouted a two-out, two-run home run to right field in the seventh. That homer – off lefty reliever D.J. Stastny – knotted the game at 7-7.
Stastny then worked out of a jam in the eighth, setting up an inprobable go-ahead run for the Storm in the ninth. Josh Hudeck led off the ninth with a solid single. A bunt moved him around to second, and then pinch-runner Tyler Kmitt came around to score when NU left fielder Andrew Fleming dropped a routine fly ball to right. That fly ball came off the bat of Derrick Turocy who nonetheless turned in a solid plate appearance in spoiling several good pitches by Northwood reliever Aaron Kroll. The run put LEC up, 8-7.
A one-out single by Larsen Cronkright put the Timberwolves in business in the ninth. A 6-4-3 double-play induced by Stastny and turned by Dillon VanDyne and Kmitt closed up shop. The play capped off a number of fine defensive gems turned in by the Green & White nine.
For Lake Erie the win marked three victories in a row and it spelled a turnaround from last weekend when the Storm dropped a pair of one-run games in being swept at California (Pa.).
"It was nice to see the guys win a game late, especially after last week," said Head Coach Brian McGee.
The LEC-NU set is slated to wrap up Saturday with a noon doubleheader.
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