Chippewas win high-scoring affair in baseball opener at UNLV

Freshman pitcher Ian Leatherman pitches the ball against Grand Valley State University on March 26 at Theunissen Stadium

Junior right-hander Grant Frazier came to the mound with two outs in the eighth inning with a man on second base. UNLV had just gotten a 2-run single from Edarian Williams to cut its deficit to 12-9. Frazier was tasked with getting his team out of the inning and closing the door. 

He did just that, striking out four-of-the-five batters he faced to close out Central Michigan's 12-9 season-opening victory over the Rebels on Friday at Earl E. Wilson Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

The Chippewas took an early lead in the top of the 3rd inning, scoring four runs. Senior infielder Zach Heeke got the inning going when he was hit by a pitch, later coming into score on a bases-loaded walk from junior Chase Rollin. 

The next batter, sophomore outfielder Garrett Navarra, singled home two runs to push it to 3-0 in favor of the Chippewas, and freshman infielder Aidan Shepardson earned his first career RBI on a fielders choice to give the Chippewas a 4-0 lead. 

UNLV rallied to tie the game at four apiece when Austin Pfeifer drilled a 3-run home run to left-center field off of Chippewa starter J.T. Rogoszewski, who was making his first career start with Central Michigan. Rogoszewski is a transfer from North Carolina who has two years of eligibility left. 

Shepardson notched his first collegiate hit in the next half-inning, scoring two on a base hit to give the Chippewas a 6-4 lead. Heeke followed that with an RBI single of his own, giving the Chippewas a 7-4 lead. 

UNLV tied the game at seven apiece in the bottom of the sixth, but Central Michigan got clutch at-bats from junior infielder Zavier Warren, senior outfielder Zach Gilles and junior catcher Griffin Lockwood-Powell, each driving in runs, to take an 11-7 lead. 

Sophomore right-hander Ian Leatherman (1-0) got the win for the Chippewas, allowing three runs on one hit, one walk and two hit batters. He also struck out four hitters. Rogoszewski went three innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on three hits. He struck out four. Connor Woods (0-1) took the loss for UNLV. 

As a team, the Chippewas fanned 12 hitters while allowing nine hits. At the plate, the team pounded out 10 hits. Lockwood-Powell and Navarra led the way with three hits and two RBI in four at-bats each, while Shepardson had one hit and three RBI. 

The Chippewas are at UNLV for the remainder of the weekend. They'll play a doubleheader Saturday night, with the first game scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.