Blair HR catapults Mercyhurst to win
ESU suffers first loss of tourney, Lakers set season wins mark
LANCASTER, Pa. -- Zak Blair's three-run home run in the eighth inning broke a 1-1 tie and lifted 17th-ranked Mercyhurst past East Stroudsburg in the NCAA Atlantic Region Tournament.
The Lakers move to 41-10 overall, setting the program record for wins in a season. They will now move on to play Millersville while East Stroudsburg (26-19), who suffered its first loss in the tournament, will face Concord. The loser of the Millersville-Mercyhurst contest will take on the winner of Concord-East Stroudsburg.
Through the first five innings, fans were treated to a pitcher's duel between Laker starter Eric Aschley and ESU starter Andy Noga. Both teams were held to just three hits through five innings as Aschley was able to brilliantly pitch out of some early-inning jams while Noga kept the Lakers on first base until Ethan Santora's seventh-inning double.
Aschley earned his eighth win of the season, tying for fourth on the single-season list with Nick Gillung. He allowed one earned run on nine hits while striking out eight. Noga threw his sixth complete game of the season for the Warriors, allowing four runs on eight hits with seven strikeouts and no walks, while tying the school record with 12 starts in a single season.
The Division II leader in fewest walks per nine innings, Noga didn't issue a walk for the eighth time this season.
The Warriors took a 1-0 lead with two outs in the bottom of the sixth following Eric Forth's double to the right-center gap that plated Chris Knott, who perfectly placed a bunt single down the left-field line.
Mercyhurst quickly answered in the top of the seventh when Santora led off the inning, then smartly tagged to third on Bill Gerstenslager's deep fly. Craig Denman evened the score on a rope to centerfield that easily scored Santora and ignited the Lakers' offense.
In the eighth, Adam Brentlinger started a rally for the second consecutive game with his single to center field. Justin Urschel's sacrifice fly moved him to second before Jonathan Keppler singled and alertly advanced to second on a throw that sailed past the cutoff man. Blair then drilled his second homer of the year and only hit of the day to right field for the game-winner.
ESU got a pair of one-out base runners in the eighth on a single by Knott and a walk by Forth, but Nico Delerme's drive to deep right was snagged at the wall by Shane Latshaw and Aschley once again got out of the inning unscathed.
The Lakers escaped danger in the ninth when East Stroudsburg had the bases loaded, but closer Samuel O'Neill got Knott to ground out to Keppler to end the threat.