RIO GRANDE, Ohio — University of Rio Grande pitching limited West Virginia University Tech to just seven hits in two games, while throwing back-to-back shutouts for just the third time since 1997 in a 7-0 and 5-0 sweep of the Golden Bears, Sunday afternoon, in non-conference baseball action at brutally cold Bob Evans Field.
The RedStorm, which snapped a five-game losing slide with the sweep, improved to 12-17 overall.
The consecutive shutouts are Rio’s first since a 4-0 win over Ohio Christian University in the second game of a doubleheader on April 2, 2013 and an 11-0 rout, ironically enough, against WVU Tech in the first game of a doubleheader four days later.
Prior to that, the only other time since 1997 that Rio pitching had consecutive shutouts was a 2-0 win over Franciscan University in the second game of a twinbill on Feb. 28, 2009 and a 20-0 thumping of the same foe in the opening game of a doubleheader the next day.
As a result of insufficient records, its unclear the last time the Rio had back-to-back shutouts in the same doubleheader.
In the opener, the trio of junior Anthony Knittel (Portsmouth, OH), freshman Brandon Stevens (Louisa, KY) and sophomore Jonathan Schob (Decatur, OH) blanked Tech (7-11) on two hits.
Knittel, who improved to 2-3, allowed one hit over the first five innings and was responsible for all of the staff’s four walks and 10 of its 12 strikeouts. The 10 strikeouts represent a career-high for the southpaw transfer from Marietta College.
Sophomore lefty Kyle Miller (Wilmington, OH) went the distance in game two to earn his second win in five decisions. He allowed five hits and a walk, while equaling a career-high with nine strikeouts.
Rio Grande scored four times in the first inning and three more times in the third inning of the opener and all but one of the RedStorm runs was unearned thanks to four Golden Bear errors.
Junior Kevin Arroyo (Toa Baja, Puerto Rico) reached on an error to begin the Rio first, moved to third on a wild pitch by Tech starter Tommy Weaver and scored on junior Grant Tamane’s (Pickering, Ontario, Canada) infield single to shortstop.
Tamane eventually scored on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice grounder to short by freshman Daryin Lewis (Circleville, OH) and sophomore Chris Ford (Athens, OH) had a two-run single to make it 4-0.
In the Rio third, senior Marcus Makuch (Baltimore, OH) led off with a single, stole second, moved to third on a flyout and scored on a wild pitch. After loading the bases later in the inning, sophomore Austin Hall (Wheelersburg, OH) delivered a two-run single to left to make it 7-0.
Tech’s best chance at scoring came in the third when Marc Culmer reached on a two-out walk and moved to third on Zach Sizemore’s double along the right field line. Knittel got Austin Lucas to flyout to right, though, to end the threat.
Ford finished 2-for-3 with the two RBIs, while freshman Luis Jimenez (Salina, Puerto Rico) added a double.
Rio took a 1-0 lead in the third inning of game two when Tamane reached on a two-out single, stole second and scored on a single to center by Makuch, but the RedStorm blew things open with a three-run fourth inning.
Jimenez led off with a single to center and moved to third when Lewis’ grounder to short was errored. Ford followed with a hit to left to score both runners and later cross the plate himself on a single to left by freshman Clark Rice (Louisa, KY).
Rio’s final run came in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Ford.
Ford finished 2-for-2 with three RBIs, while Makuch, Jimenez and Rice all had two hits each.
Culmer had three of Tech’s five hits and starting pitcher Craig Johnson suffered his fourth loss in five decisions.
Rio Grande is scheduled to return to action on Tuesday afternoon, traveling to VA Memorial Stadium to face Ohio-Chillicothe in a pair of seven-inning games beginning at 2 p.m.