Baseball continues strong play with series win over Milwaukee
The 14 game win streak came to an end on Sunday.
But the loss didn’t prevent Wright State from winning the series against Milwaukee.
The Raiders opened game one on Friday the 13th and the start resembled a horror movie. Starter Lee Valencheck gave up 10 hits and seven runs in 4.2 innings and left in a 7-0 hole. WSU’s then 12 game win streak looked to be in serious jeopardy.
“We didn’t start off very well, obviously,” said Head Coach Rob Cooper. “We got down seven runs, and the way Milwaukee played and came out had a lot to do with it.”
But the bats woke up in the fifth inning.
Kyle Mossbarger singled in a run and Jake Hibberd hit a sacrifice fly to cut the score to 7-2. They added three more runs in the sixth when Justin Kopale’s double plated two and Sam Pichiotti knocked in a run.
After the Panthers added two in the eighth, WSU faced a 9-5 deficit in the ninth. Pichiotti started the rally with his first homer of the year.
“Offensively, he had some really big at-bats,” Cooper said of Pichiotti. “In the ninth inning, he had a home-run and kind of sparked us. Hopefully this will be the spark that gets him going because he’s a guy that we really believe in and he can really help us.”
Despite Pichiotti’s heroics, the Raiders faced their final out down 9-6.
When the next batter, Ryan Ashe, struck out, the game should have been over.
The pitch sailed behind the backstop and Ashe reached first. Garret Gray then hit a two-run single, which Zach Tanner followed up with a game-tying single.
In the eleventh inning, Ashe singled and advanced to second on a walk. Tanner brought him home with a sacrifice fly to earn the 11-10 win.
“What our guys did, and they’ve being doing this quite a bit this year, they didn’t stop playing,” said Cooper. “They kept battling. In the ninth inning, we continued to chip away and were able to come back and get a win. That was a real testament to the players.”
A rainout Saturday forced a double-header Sunday.
Behind starter Taylor Braun, the Raiders took the matinee 8-3. Braun pitched five innings and gave up only three runs for his fourth straight win. But reliever Jordan Marker earned the save by allowing only one hit on four innings of shutout ball.
“Jordan’s been like that his entire career,” said Cooper. “He just made Horizon League Pitcher of the Week. But whether it’s been to come in [for] long-relief or short-relief over his career, he’s been so consistent. He’s a guy that we’re really going to miss after this year because you kind of take it for granted.”
Though Kopale had two RBI’s on two hits, Hibberd and Moore led the Raiders with solo home-runs. Hibberd and Ashe each went 3-4 on the day.
WSU took their 14 game win streak into the afternoon game, but their luck ran out.
Four errors in the second inning escalated into a 7-0 UWM lead in the third inning.
While the Raiders added four in the bottom half of the inning off RBI from Gray, Tanner and Kopale, the Panthers pushed the score to 9-4 after six innings.
At 9-7 in the seventh, WSU started to come back. But they stranded runners on base in the last three innings and dropped the game.
“We made four errors in one inning and gave up three runs,” said. “You’re not going to win playing a good team, and Milwaukee always plays us well, when you make errors and give other teams free runs. If you take away those three runs, which you can’t, the final score is 7-6 us.”
Hibberd and Tanner each collected three of the Raiders’ 15 hits, but pitching doomed the team. Starter Cody Kopilchack gave up seven runs in 2.2 innings and the deficit proved insurmountable.
As WSU prepares for a series against Illinois-Chicago this weekend, Cooper acknowledges his team’s accomplishment. But he won’t be satisfied unless the team wins in the tournament.
“It was something I hope those guys are proud of,” said Cooper. “They did a great job, battled and really put together an impressive streak. But we don’t want that to end up being the highlight of our season. If a 14 game win streak ends up being the highlight of our season, then we’re not getting a chance to play in the NCAA tournament.”