AVON, Ohio – For the first time since 1996, The University of Akron baseball team will be in the Mid-American Conference Championship after defeating the University at Buffalo, 5-4, in a 12-inning, semifinal matchup on Saturday afternoon at All Pro Freight Stadium.
Sophomore JT Brubaker took the mound for the Zips for the 13th time in 2014 on Saturday, turning in five innings with eight hits, two runs, one walk and five strikeouts.
Akron jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, the third straight game in which the Zips have scored in the beginning frame. Redshirt senior James Sheltrown led off the inning with a single. Then, sophomore Daulton Mosbarger reached base on a fielder's choice sac bunt to put runners on first and second.
Redshirt junior Devan Ahart bunted again after Mosbarger reached, and caused a throwing error by Buffalo's third baseman, Tyler Mautner. Sheltrown was able to score from second on the error. Joey Havrilak also reached on a fielding error, allowing Mosbarger to easily score from third.
Both teams went scoreless in the second, but the Zips were able to add another run in the third to take a 3-0 lead. Kris Simonton led off the frame with a single, and eventually came around to score on an errant throw by UB starting pitcher Mike McGee.
Buffalo would claw back for two runs in the fourth, which were tagged to Brubaker, to make it a 3-2 Akron lead. Freshman Masashi Sakamoto came in at the outset of the sixth inning, allowing one unearned run in the inning to tie the game at 3-3.
Sakamoto finished off the sixth, but would be removed from the game after recording two outs in the seventh. The right-hander was tagged with one run in the seventh to give UB a 4-3 advantage. Redshirt freshman Evan Jensen came in during the seventh, totaling two scoreless innings with four hits allowed.
Undeterred, the Zips fought back for one run in the eighth inning to tie the game at 4-4. Junior Matt Rembielak led off the eighth with a double down the leftfield line. Ahart followed after two batters with a clutch, RBI single up the middle to score Rembielak from second.
Redshirt junior Matt LaRocca relieved Jensen with two outs in the ninth. LaRocca struck out the first batter he faced, and held the Bulls scoreless in 3.1 innings of work.
It took until the 12th inning for the Zips to manufacture the game-winning run. James Meeker III led off with a single, Rembielak walked and LaRocca singled on a well-placed bunt. With the bases loaded an nobody out, Sheltrown drew a walk to drive in the winning run and send the Zips to the MAC Championship for the first time in 18 years.
LaRocca, a native of Stony Brook, N.Y., improved his record to 1-2 with the semifinal victory. The right-hander notched three strikeouts and allowed one hit in three-plus innings of relief.
Akron will look ahead to the MAC Championship game on Sunday at noon against rival Kent State University.
Sunday's game will be broadcast on ESPN3. Audio from Akron baseball broadcaster, Bill Morgan, will be available tomorrow as well. For more information regarding the MAC Tournament, follow this link.