By Blake Moore
AUBURNDALE, Fla. — Senior designated hitter/infielder Caleb Thomas (Strongsville) supplied a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday afternoon, lifting the Ohio Northern baseball program to an 11-10 victory over nonconference foe Salve Regina (R.I.) at the Lake Myrtle #7 Complex during the 2019 RussMatt Invitational.
With the win, the Polar Bears improve to 4-2 overall on the season. Meanwhile, the Seahawks drop to 1-2 overall in 2019.
Trailing 10-9 with one at-bat remaining, Northern manufactured a four-hit, two-run rally to complete the come-from-behind victory.
The Polar Bears began the comeback with three singles from junior Phil Buckingham (Wayne/Elmwood), freshman Sam Zeleznik (Medina/Highland), and sophomore Michael Rocco (Orlando, Fla./Zionsville, Ind.). With the bases loaded, senior Luke Klinehoffer (Zanesville/John Glenn) provided a crucial sacrifice fly to center field, knotting the game up at 10-10.
Thomas then poked the game-winning RBI single through the right side of the infield, allowing Zeleznik to score from second base to preserve the 11-10 victory.
Earlier in the contest, Salve Regina took an early 2-0 lead after scoring once in the first and third innings. Ohio Northern responded with one in the bottom of the third after Klinehoffer bounced into a double play with the bases loaded to bring home sophomore outfielder Krue Thwaits (Greenville/Milton Union).
Trailing 5-2, the Polar Bears posted a seven-spot during the fifth inning to take their first lead with a 9-5 scoreline.
The Seahawks steadily battled back with two runs in the sixth, one in the seventh, and two more in the eighth frame to regain the lead 10-9, setting up the final ONU rally.
Offensively, Rocco and sophomore Tyler Randick (Flushing, Mich.) led the Orange and Black with perfect three-for-three and four-for-four outings at the plate, respectively. Additionally, both players scored once Friday afternoon while the latter chipped in two RBI.
Meanwhile, Klinehoffer produced a team-high three RBI.
On the mound, senior right-hander Blake Lester (Chesepeake) received his first win of the season after tossing a hitless ninth inning.
As a team, the Polar Bears finished with 20 hits in the contest compared to the Seahawks' 14 total hits.
Ohio Northern will return to action tomorrow afternoon with a doubleheader against Pitt.-Greensburg. Game one is slated for a 12 p.m. first pitch at the McKeel Academy in Lakeland, Florida.