HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. — After cruising to a weekend series sweep of Cincinnati Christian University, the University of Rio Grande baseball team found more success against a school from the greater Cincinnati area on Tuesday afternoon.
Only this time, the opposition was a team from the ranks of NCAA Division I.
The RedStorm coughed up an early four-run lead before rallying late to post an 8-5 victory over Northern Kentucky University at a sun-splashed Bill Aker Baseball Complex.
Rio Grande improved to 21-23 with the win – its second straight against an NCAA Division I foe. The last came against Ohio University nearly four years ago to the day – a 2-0 win on April 16, 2014 in Athens.
Northern Kentucky, a member of the Horizon League, dropped to 9-24 with the loss.
The Norse spotted the RedStorm a 5-1 lead after two innings, but rallied to tie the game with three runs in the fifth inning and another marker in the sixth inning.
Rio Grande regained the lead in the eighth inning on a one-out solo home run by sophomore Dylan Shockley (Minford, OH) – his third hit and second extra-base hit of the day.
The RedStorm then added two more runs in the top of the ninth thanks to three straight one-out singles – by senior Ty Warnimont (Rio Grande, OH), sophomore Eli Daniels (Minford, OH) and senior Juan Cruz (Juana Diaz, P.R.) – and an two-out error on a ground ball to second by junior Dalton Wilburn (Ashville, OH).
NKU made things interesting against Shockley – the last of three Rio pitchers – in the bottom of the ninth with a trio of walks, but Preston Pilat flied out to center to seal the win and Shockley’s second save of the season.
Shockley finished 3-for-4 and was a double shy of hitting for the cycle, while Daniels went 3-for-5 with an RBI in the win. Warnimont and Cruz both had two hits, while seniors Cody Blackburn (Amanda, OH) and Kameron Herring (Heath, OH) drove in two runs each.
Senior Jacob Hastings (Commercial Point, OH) picked up his third win in four decisions, allowing seven hits and four earned runs over seven innings.
Chad Roberts had two hits, including a three-run home run, for Northern Kentucky.
Kyle Service, the third of three pitchers for the Norse, suffered the loss.
Rio Grande returns to action on Friday afternoon when it opens an important three-game series at Midway University.
First pitch for Friday’s opener is set for 3 p.m. at Chandler Field in Versailles, Ky.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.