RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Down to its last strike, the University of Rio Grande climbed off the mat.
Two innings later, the game’s lone miscue allowed the RedStorm to finish off their improbable comeback.
Isaiah Lewis had a game-tying, two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning and Tristan Arno scored on an 11th inning throwing error to give Rio Grande a 3-2 win over Asbury University in the opening game of their River States Conference doubleheader, Saturday afternoon, at Bob Evans Field.
The RedStorm improved to 3-18 overall and 1-3 in conference play with the win.
The Eagles slipped to 11-4 overall and 0-1 inside the RSC with the loss.
Game two of the twin bill was suspended by darkness after six innings with Asbury leading 11-3.
The final inning of the contest will be played on Sunday at 1 p.m. prior to the wrapup of the three-game weekend series.
For the longest time, it appeared as if Rio Grande would end up on the short end of a pitcher’s duel between graduate senior Zach Kendall (Troy, OH) and Asbury starter Will McDonald.
Kendall allowed two hits and four walks while striking out a career-high 11 batters over seven innings.
However, the Eagles scored twice — on a third inning wild pitch and a fourth inning passed ball — and the 2-0 lead looked like it would hold up for McDonald, who entered the contest with 0.74 earned run average.
The right-hander surrendered just three hits and allowed just one Rio runner to advance beyond first base over the first eight innings.
Things changed dramatically in the ninth, though.
Arno, a freshman from Elyria, Ohio, reached on a one-out infield single and senior Eli Daniels (Minford, OH) — making his return to lineup after missing 14 games to injury — followed with an opposite field double to put the tying runs in scoring position.
Lewis, a senior from Willingboro, N.J., followed by lining a 2-2 pitch into left-center to plate the tying runs.
Sophomore Cole Dyer (Wheelersburg, OH) followed with a pinch-hit single to move Lewis into scoring position, but McDonald induced freshman Carter Smith (Point Pleasant, WV) into a routine grounder to second base to send the game to extra innings.
The Eagles put a runner at second base with one out in the 10th against freshman reliever Josh Faro (Gallipolis, OH) and managed a two-out base runner in the 11th against junior Caleb Fetzer (Van Wert, OH), but failed to push across the go-ahead marker.
Rio also failed to take advantage of a scoring threat in the 10th inning, but got the job done in the bottom of the 11th.
Arno blooped a single along the left field line and promptly stole second before Daniels followed with a grounder that Asbury shortstop Trevor Campbell fired into the Rio dugout allowing Arno to score the winning run.
Arno finished 2-for-5 in the victory.
Fetzer picked up the win after tossing one inning of one-hit, shutout relief.
Jacob Cervantes suffered the loss in relief for Asbury.
Paul Haupt had three hits and Colton Back finished 2-for-4 in a losing cause for the Eagles.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.