Hammer sends Toledo past Oakland in walk-off winWritten by Zach Davis | | firstname.lastname@example.org
On the warmest March day ever recorded in Toledo at 85 degrees, Ben Hammer hit a walk-off in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs to lift the Rockets to a 3-2 victory over Oakland on March 21 at Scott Park.
Toledo advanced to 8-11 on the year with the win, dropping the Golden Grizzlies to 3-13. The victory came in the Rockets’ first home game of the season, after UT started the year with an 18-game road trip.
“I don’t think we could have asked for a better day,” Toledo head coach Cory Mee said. “To have the kind of weather we had today was just a pleasure to get out to the ballpark. It’s nice to be home. After playing 18 games on the road, it’s nice to get home and play. Then to win in the bottom of the ninth in walk-off fashion, I don’t think it could have been a better day for us.”
Hammer (2 for 5, RBI) hit his game-winner with the bases loaded. The senior’s shot to left field narrowly stayed fair, falling just feet away from foul territory.
“I was just looking for something out over the plate that I could put the bat on,” Hammer said. “I always think in that situation that there is more pressure on the pitcher than the hitter with bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth. I knew it was going to be close, I saw it hooking a little bit.”
Junior left fielder Tyler Grogg got the first crack at the game-winner, attempting to bring home freshman shortstop Dan Zuchowski from third with a bunt. The Golden Grizzlies couldn’t get the ball over the plate, walking the .186 hitter to load the bases for senior second baseman Joe Corfman and his .295 average. Corfman hit a rope to short but Oakland threw out the runner at home before Hammer closed out the game on the next at bat.
“We were trying to use Tyler, who is a really good bunter, by trying to get the runner home that way and he ended up walking,” Mee said. “They made a nice play on the ball Joe Corfman hit and fortunately Ben came through in the clutch. I think we had some really good at bats. We just need to trust each other and keep having good at bats and fortunately today we did.”
Freshman third baseman Anthony Smith excelled at the plate, recording three hits and two RBI including his first career home run in the second inning to put UT ahead 1-0.
The Rockets’ pitching staff carried them against Oakland as sophomore starter Ryan Wilkinson allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits with three strikeouts in 5.2 innings.
Relievers Cody Umbright, Tyler Scott, Lincoln Rassi and Andrew Marra combined for 3.1 scoreless innings of work with three hits, seven strikeouts and just one walk, giving time for the UT offense to take the lead.
“I thought we pitched outstanding today,” Mee said. “Ryan Wilkinson has done a great job these last few outings and he did a great job again today. Then to have those [relievers] come in and really slam the door for us, they have been a really big part of our success recently. That’s what we expect out of our guys and they are doing a great job.”
Following their win in the home opener, Toledo will remain at Scott Park for a three-game weekend series against Ohio (9-10) to open Mid-American Conference play. The first matchup is scheduled for 3 p.m. March 23.
“We are looking forward to it,” Hammer said. “We kind of had a rough start but once we get rolling in the MAC, our spirits are going to be high and we are going to be ready to go.”