April 26, 2011

Vikings Come From Behind to Defeat Toledo, 7-6

April 26, 2011

Box Score

Contact: Dan Carr

AVON, Ohio - Sometimes, turnabout is fair play.

Three days after losing a game to Youngstown State in the bottom of the ninth on a bases-loaded walk, the Cleveland State baseball team earned its eighth win of the season when, with the bags full, Tyler Wynn watched four straight balls sail past him to bring home the game-winning run. Once trailing, 5-2, the Vikings completed a comeback to defeat Toledo, 7-6, on Tuesday (April 26).

"We really grinded out this win," head coach Kevin Kocks said. "We had a few things go our way, and we had some luck, but overall this was a good team win."

With the score tied at six entering the bottom of the ninth, CSU got the winning run on base when the Rockets' third baseman fumbled a bouncing grounder, allowing John Calhoun to safely reach first. Anthony Sambula advanced him to second with a perfectly placed sacrifice bunt. Toledo then chose to intentionally walk Alex Johnson, Cleveland State's best hitter this season, and that's when the game started to turn in the Vikings' favor.

Matt Zahel, who had entered the game at the start of the ninth, lost control of his pitches after that intentional walk. Four of his next five pitches to CSU's Alex Gnezda went for balls, loading the bases and setting up Wynn, who won the game for Cleveland State four pitches later.

"It was kind of a duplicate of Saturday's ball game," Kocks said of the winning play. "They gave us an opportunity, and I felt our guys were relaxed at that time and felt pretty confident in that situation. Four straight balls in a row, you gotta take the win any way you get it."

The Vikings had to dig themselves out of a hole to get to that six-all tie. Down 5-2 midway through the sixth, Wynn started the Vikings' comeback bid with a ground rule double over the center field wall. Two at-bats later, Dylan Schwegler hit a dribbler towards the pitcher, allowing Wynn to move to second, setting Tom Carter up for an RBI single through the right side that began the Vikings' rally.

Though that run was it for CSU in the sixth, the momentum carried over into the seventh where Cleveland State briefly took the lead with a three-run inning. Calhoun again kicked things off with a single to right field, moving to second one play later on a sacrifice bunt by Sambula. What occurred next was the first of several miscues by the Rocket pitching rotation, as Johnson was hit by a pitch to give CSU two runners on base with just the one out. A wild pitch that took Toledo catcher James Miglin a while to find allowed Calhoun to score and Johnson to take third, where he was then brought home on a sacrifice fly by Gnezda, tying the game at five.

The Vikings weren't done. The next batter, Wynn, reached base on balls, and then took second on a balk. Matt Kirkwood then hit a single deep enough into left field to allow Wynn to score the tie-breaking run.

Toledo knotted the game at six in the top of the ninth on a ball hit deep enough into left to bring a runner home from second, but Travis Miller (1-7) entered the game for CSU at that point and stopped the damage, forcing the next two Rocket batters into ground outs and setting Cleveland State up for the winning half inning.

Though Miller ended up with the win, he was just one of five Viking pitchers who saw time on the mound. Chris Ward was the most effective. Entering the game in the sixth with the bases loaded and no outs on the board, the Vikings allowed a run to come home on an error. Ward went on a terror from that point, retiring eight of the next nine batters he faced, striking out two and forcing two others to hit into a double play.

"Ward came in and gave us the three great innings we needed to have," Kocks said. "It was nice to see Travis come in and close it out for us."

Gnezda, the Vikings' catcher, had a strong day behind the plate, helping the Vikings' to seven outs with three assists and four putouts. None was bigger than a laser throw to Calhoun on third in the fourth inning, picking off a Toledo runner to end the frame.

"That play really changed the momentum of the game, took it away from Toledo and swung it back in our favor," Kocks said. "Sometimes you have to take your chances, and on that pick off Gnezda thought he had a shot and made a great throw to end the inning."

Gnezda also accounted for the last two outs in the fifth, catching two runners attempting to steal second with great throws to Carter, the team's shortstop.

Toledo, which fell to 20-20 with the loss, ended up out-hitting Cleveland State on the day, finishing with 10 hits to the Vikings' six. Both teams had an error. The win improves CSU to 8-28 on the season, including a 4-9 mark at home.

The Vikings next kick off a 10-game road swing, starting with a short trip to Kent State on Wednesday (April 27) for a 3:00 p.m. contest.

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