CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Indiana University Kokomo sent 11 batters to the plate in a seven-run eighth inning and rolled to an 11-3 win over the University of Rio Grande in the opening round of the River States Conference Baseball Tournament, Thursday night, at VA Memorial Stadium.
The fourth-seeded Cougars, who are fielding a program for the first time this season, improved to 31-19-1 with the win and will face No. 2 seed Point Park University in Friday’s second round at 7 p.m.
Rio Grande, the tourney’s No. 3 seed, slipped to 26-25 with the loss — its third in four meetings with IU Kokomo.
The RedStorm faces a must-win situation in the double-elimination tourney when it squares off with top-seeded Indiana University Southeast in Friday’s 3 p.m. game.
Rio Grande sliced a 4-1 Kokomo lead to just one run thanks to solo home runs by junior Michael Rodriguez (Santo Domingo, D.R.) and sophomore Eli Daniels (Minford, OH) in the bottom of the seventh inning, but the Cougars settled the issue once and for all with their eighth inning uprising.
Kokomo had just three hits in its big inning — including a two-run triple by Dalton Clarke to top things off. The inning also included four walks — one of which came with the bases loaded — a hit batsman and a wild pitch, which allowed yet another run to score.
Kokomo starter Renton Poole allowed just five hits and the three runs over eight innings to pick up the win.
Clarke doubled twice, tripled and drove in four runs for the Cougars, who spotted the RedStorm a 1-0 third inning lead before tying the game in the fourth, taking a 2-1 lead in the sixth and adding a pair of markers in the seventh for a 4-1 advantage.
Tavon Lindsay had two hits, including a triple, and drove in one run in the winning effort, while Jared Heard had a double and three RBI.
Senior Juan Cruz (Juana Diaz, P.R.) accounted for half of Rio’s hit total for the game, going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles. Junior Dalton Wilburn (Ashville, OH) also drove in a run in a losing cause.
Junior Zach Harvey (Kenova, W.Va.) started and took the loss for the RedStorm, allowing five hits, five walks and seven runs — all earned — over seven-plus innings.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.