KOKOMO, Ind. — Billy Cooper had three of the University of Rio Grande’s season-high 18 hits and drove in a career-high six runs to lead the RedStorm past Indiana University-Kokmo, 11-4, in the opening game of their River States Conference weekend baseball series, Friday afternoon, at Kokomo Municipal Stadium.
Sophomore Clayton Surrell (Carroll, OH) and the senior duo of Jon Erhard (Newark, OH) and Juan Familia (Reading, PA) also finished with three hits each for Rio Grande, which improved to 19-30 overall and 12-13 in league play with the victory.
With the win — and a loss by Midway University to Asbury — the RedStorm also secured a berth in next week’s RSC Tournament at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe, Ohio.
The Cougars (26-18, 14-10 RSC), who were among the teams receiving votes in the latest NAIA Coaches’ Top 25 poll, had won four straight and 11 of their last 12 outings entering the contest.
Cooper, a junior from Jackson, Ohio, had two-run singles in the second, third and eighth innings for Rio, which spotted IUK a 1-0 first inning lead before taking the lead for good on Cooper’s second inning hit.
The RedStorm scored in four consecutive frames to build an 8-2 advantage after 4-1/2 innings, but the Cougars scored twice in the home sixth to close the deficit to 8-4.
IUK had the bases loaded with two outs in the sixth, but Rio freshman starter Trey Carter (Wheelersburg, OH) struck out Riley Garczynski to escape any further damage.
Carter worked into the ninth inning before issuing a leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Bryce Lenz and giving way to freshman reliever Lane Mettler (Bainbridge, OH), who promptly issued a walk to Dylan Janke. The scoring threat — and the game — ended, though, when Lenz was thrown out trying to steal third and each of the next two batters struck out looking.
In addition to their three hits each, Erhard and Surrell drove in three and two runs, respectively. Senior Caden Cluxton (Washington Court House, OH) finished with two hits in the winning effort.
Carter earned his fourth win in seven decisions — and his third in a row — after allowing eight hits and three runs, while walking three and striking out five.
Masen Melton had three hits and a run batted in for the Cougars.
Max McKee, the first of five IUK pitchers, took the loss. He allowed 10 hits and six earned runs over 3-1/3 innings.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.