CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio — Caden Cluxton smacked an eighth inning tie-breaking single and Kent Reeser followed with a two-run double, lifting the University of Rio Grande past Ohio Christian University, 8-5, Monday afternoon, in River States Conference baseball action at Olson Field.
The RedStorm improved to 16-29 overall and 9-12 in conference play with the victory.
Ohio Christian fell to 9-27 overall and 3-17 against RSC foes.
The Trailblazers, who posted a 12-11 triumph in the series opener on Friday by scoring eight times in the bottom of the ninth inning, nearly pulled off the same kind of comeback in the series finale.
OCU trailed 5-1 entering the home half of the seventh, but two walks, a hit batsman and three hits — two of which never left the infield — produced four runs and sent the game into extra innings.
Senior Juan Familia (Reading, PA) started the Rio rally with a one-out single in the eighth and moved to second on a two-out hit by sophomore II-Zadod Gabriel (Toledo, OH).
Cluxton, a senior from Washington Court House, Ohio, followed with a single to center to score Familia and, thanks to an error on the same play, he and Gabriel ended up at second and third, respectively.
Reeser, a senior from Miamisburg, Ohio, brought both runners around with a double to left-center to make it 8-5.
Graduate senior Zach Kendall (Troy, OH), who was robbed of a win after tossing seven strong innings in the Friday afternoon meltdown, allowed a leadoff single to Carter Hyde in the bottom half of the eighth before sandwiching a strikeout in between a pair of fielder’s choice grounders to end the game.
Rio Grande led 5-0 after 4-1/2 innings after scoring twice in the first and fifth and once in the fourth inning. Senior Jesse Watson (Las Cruces, NM) had an RBI single in the first, Gabriel had a run-scoring hit in the fourth and the fifth inning markers came as a result of RBI hits by sophomore Clayton Surrell (Carroll, OH) and freshman Darius Jordan (Minford, OH).
The Trailblazers started their comeback with a fifth inning run of their own against Rio junior starter Cody Gabriel (Upper Sandusky, OH) when Cody Lee led off with a walk, moved to third on a one-out double by Jarod Hamlin and scored on a groundout by Bryant Lung.
The seventh inning rally began when Gabriel hit Hyde with a pitch and walked Lee, prompting Rio head coach Brad Warnimont to call on his best hurler to put out the fire.
But things didn’t go as smoothly as the veteran coach had hoped.
Kendall induced Ian Rycenga to bounce into a fielder’s choice which forced Lee at second for the first out, but a walk to Hamlin loaded the bases preceded an RBI single by Lung and a run-scoring groundout by Seth Nichols to make it 5-3.
Shawn Grider and Logan Kottenbrook followed with infield singles to score two more markers and knot the score at 5-all, but Brandon Seiler grounded out to third to strand the would-be game-winning run at third base and send the contest to the eighth.
II-Zadod Gabriel finished 3-for-4 in the win, while Cluxton, Watson and Jordan all had two hits.
Cody Gabriel allowed six hits and seven walks, but gave up just two runs over six innings.
Kendall got the win despite allowing four hits and three runs in two innings of relief.
Logan Hill lost in relief for OCU, surrendering five hits and three runs — two earned — over five innings.
Grider had three hits for the Trailblazers, while Rycenga and Lung had two hits each.
Rio Grande is scheduled to return to action on Friday when it hosts West Virginia University-Tech for a doubleheader beginning at noon.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.