May 15—The Battle of I-75 shifted to Fifth Third Field on Friday night as rivals Bowling Green State University and the University of Toledo put on a show on the downtown diamond.
Toledo, which was the home team at the Mud Hens' ballpark, fell behind 1-0 before securing a 5-2 win in a Mid-American Conference game that had a little bit of everything. A crowd of 2,530 was the largest to ever attend a college baseball game at the Triple-A stadium.
The Rockets turned a rare triple play, smacked a home run, and got a solid starting pitching performance from Napoleon graduate Layne Schnitz-Paxton.
Toledo right fielder John Servello smashed a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth to stake the Rockets to a 3-1 lead. Servello, who went 2 for 4 with two runs scored, crushed the no-doubt homer to straightaway left field.
The contest, which was the first in a planned annual event, was the first in a four-game series hosted by the Rockets with the other three games being played at Scott Park. The teams will play a seven-inning doubleheader on Saturday, and the series will conclude with a Sunday afternoon contest.
The Rockets (17-27, 15-13 MAC) turned the uncommon triple play with two Falcons runners on and no outs in the fourth inning. BG's runners were on the move on a hit and run when Tyler Ross lifted a soft fly to shallow right. Servello, UT's right fielder, threw to second baseman Scott Mackiewicz after making the catch to get the lead runner, and Mackiewicz then threw to first base to complete the unusual feat.
BG (13-27, 11-19 MAC) had its bats going as the Falcons had 10 hits, but they scratched across just two runs.
Schnitz-Paxton gave up two earned runs on eight hits while striking out five in six innings of work
The Falcons trailed 3-1 in the top of the seventh when they loaded the bases with no outs as Schnitz-Paxton left the game.
Bowling Green High School graduate Adam Furnas then came up with an RBI single to pull BG within a run. But Ty Johnston was then thrown out at the plate when attempting to score on a past ball. Toledo shortstop Trace Hatfield then got to a hit up the middle and first baseman Mason Sykes made a good scoop to get the third out.
Toledo answered with a single run in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI single from Chris Meyers, who had singled, that plated Servello for a 4-2 lead.
The Rockets added an insurance run in the eighth when Zach Schwartzenberger drove in his second run of the night with an RBI single that made it 5-2.
It was a perfect 70 degrees with sunshine blanketing the diamond at first pitch.
Bowling Green manufactured the game's first run in the top of the second. Center fielder Jack Krause doubled to lead off and moved to third on a sac bunt by Tyler Haas. He then scored on a perfectly executed squeeze bunt down the first-base line by Adam Fallon, who also nearly beat the throw to first and earned the game's first RBI.
Toledo responded with two runs in the bottom of the second to take a 2-1 lead. UT's Mason Sykes just missed hitting a two-run home run in the bottom of the second as his deep drive down the left-field line curled just to the left of the foul pole.
But the Rockets then tied it on a solid RBI single from Schwartzenberger that platted Darryn Davis. Sykes, who had walked, then scored the go-ahead run on a sac fly to center field by Marcus Strother.
Schnitz-Paxton overcame his throwing error in the top of the first. He stranded BG's Adam Furnas at third base. Furnas had reached after his hard shot to the mound was knocked down by Schnitz-Paxton. However, the pitcher's throw to first was wild and Furnas advanced to third. But Schnitz-Paxton then got consecutive ground-outs to end the threat.
Bowling Green starter Gage Schenk also worked out of an early jam as he struck out the side after allowing a one-out double by John Servello.
Each team had one hit after one scoreless inning.
UT catcher Marcus Strother helped Schnitz-Paxton work out of trouble in the sixth. With runners at the corners and no outs, Strother made a perfect throw to cut down an attempted steal. Schnitz-Paxton then struck out the next two batters to protect the two-run cushion.
UT pitcher Jordan Power performed well with four innings of solid relief work.
The Falcons loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the ninth. Nathan Rose just missed hitting a grand slam when his shot went just left of the left-field foul pole. Rose then popped out before a strikeout and a pop out ended the game.