MILLINGTON, TN - Toledo scored two runs in the ninth inning to claim an 8-6 victory over Memphis (1-3) on Friday in its season opener at the USA College Classic in USA Stadium.
The Rockets (1-0) received an RBI double off the bat of sophomore pinch hitter Jeff Cola in their final at-bat, as well as a bases loaded walk by junior Jim Vahalik to account for the deciding runs.
Vahalik was the hero of the game offensively for the Midnight Blue & Gold, finishing 2-for-4 with a game-high four RBI. Sophomore Matt Delewski was equally as impressive in his collegiate debut, hitting 3-for-4 with one run scored. Junior Chris Dudics helped the cause with a 2-for-5 effort and two RBI, while sophomore Joe Corfman was 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
Toledo sophomore LHP starter Kyle Shaw was also solid in his season debut. Shaw limited Memphis to two runs on six hits in 5.0 innings, but did not factor into the decision. Junior RHP Matt Suschak (1-0) was the beneficiary of the two-run ninth, as he tossed 1.1 scoreless innings to pick up the win. Junior RHP closer Matt Zahel struck out the side in the ninth to earn the save.
UT drew first blood and scored two runs in the first inning after the initial two outs were recorded. Junior Jared Hoying walked and advanced to second on a single off the bat of senior Aaron Dudley to put a pair of runners on base. Vahalik then stepped to the plate and delivered a two-run double to put the visitors on the scoreboard.
Toledo added an unearned run in the second, before the Tigers countered with a pair of RBI's from Tyler Huelsing and Drew Martinez in the bottom of the frame to shrink the margin to 3-2.
After a scoreless third frame, UT tacked on a pair of tallies in the fourth on a two-run single by Dudics and one in the fifth on a single up the middle by Vahalik to make the score 6-3.
The margin did not change until the seventh inning when Memphis plated four runs with the aid of a two-run UT infield error, allowing the home team to knot the score at 6-6.
But in the ninth, Delewski led off with a single up the middle to set the stage for a dramatic finish. After he was advanced into scoring position on a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt, UT's Dudics singled to put runners at the corners. Cola then pinch hit for senior Josh Wierzba and ripped a double down the leftfield line to score Delewski with the eventual game-winning run. Hoying was then hit by a pitch to load the bases and Vahalik followed with a walk to collect his fourth RBI of the contest.
The Tigers' Dane Sharp (0-1) was saddled with the loss, yielding two scores in 1.1 relief innings. Memphis received a strong start from Brennon Martin, allowing six runs (four earned) on eight hits with nine strikeouts in 7.0 frames. Chad Zurcher paced the home team with three of their 10 hits on the afternoon.
The Rockets return to action tomorrow vs. Bradley for their second of three games this weekend in Tennessee, beginning at noon.