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March 9, 2013

Zastryzny goes the distance

The baseball Tigers defeated the visiting San Francisco Dons 6-2 Friday night at Taylor Stadium. It was the first home night game of the season for the Tigers, who swept Eastern Michigan in a home double-header on Wednesday.

Rob Zastryzny, Friday's starter, propelled the Tigers to the win. Zastryzny went all nine innings, surrendering just two runs while striking out 10 batters.

However, the Dons did get to Zastryzny in the top half of the first inning. After retiring the first two batters in order, Zastryzny allowed three straight two-out doubles, making the score 2-0 San Francisco.

"I am pretty sure I have given up a run in the first inning of every game," Zastryzny said. "It kind of takes a slap in the face for me to get going."

Zastryzny took control starting in the second. After allowing the three first inning doubles, Zastryzny allowed only three more hits in the final eight innings.

"[Zastryzny's] first inning was rough," head coach Tim Jamieson said. "After that, he was as good as I think I have seen him."

Zastryzny, now a junior, has struggled with consistency throughout his three years on campus. However, he thinks he has finally found his comfort zone.

"After the Memphis series, I really turned the corner. I wish we could have played last weekend. After the first inning was the final [Zastrynzy snaps his fingers], that's it, that's the last time."

The Tigers evened the score in the third inning.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Scott Sommerfeld knocked an infield single to the third baseman. San Francisco's Bob Cruikshank sailed the ball to the first baseman, plating Case Munson and Logan Pearson on the error.

The game was not without some drama, however. In the top of the fifth, the Dons' Josh Miller led off with a single. After a sacrifice bunt and a ground-out, Miller stood on third with two outs. San Francisco's Jason Mahood laid a solid bunt down the third base line, but Tiger third baseman made a diving throw to out Mahood at first, preserving the 2-2 tie.

"It was phenomenal. That was a run if he doesn't make that play," coach Jamieson said. "The thing that I thought was most interesting was once he fielded the ball, he knew [the runner] was out because he was running off the field before the ball ever got to first base."

The Tigers would add two runs in the bottom of the inning, bolstered by new starting catcher Dylan Kelly's RBI single to right field. Kelly, a junior college transfer, is one of only two Tigers hitting over .300 on the year.

"[Dylan Kelly] is a phenomenal player. He may run a little weird, but he is a phenomenal player," Zastryzny said.

Kelly credits his work ethic for his success.

"I'm a hockey player, been a hockey player my whole life and I am a baseball player now," Kelly said.

Though there was significant competition for the catcher spot up until opening day, Zastryzny and Kelly have developed an excellent working relationship. Kelly called it a "pleasure" to catch for Zastryzny.

"I've known the kid for less than a year but I already feel like he is family to me," Zastryzny said.

Good feelings pervaded Friday night, and the Tigers credited the energy for part of the win.

"I love playing at home," Zastryzny said. "I was out there panting in the 6th Inning, and our bench was firing me up. I can't wait to play more."

The Tigers resume play Saturday at 1 p.m. against San Francisco at Taylor Stadium.

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