An eight-run fourth inning proved to be the difference as the Wright State baseball team advanced to the championship of the Horizon League Tournament with an 11-6 win over Milwaukee Saturday afternoon in Niles, Ohio.
The Panthers opened the scoring with a run in the third, but that lead was short-lived as WSU exploded for eight runs in the fourth. Michael Timm started things with a walk and after Garrett Gray singled to right, both moved up a base on a Kieston Greene bunt. John Brodner walked and Mark Fowler was hit by a pitch to force in the first run and Cody Gardner followed with a two-run hit to center to make it 3-1.
Justin Kopale doubled down the left field line to drive in two more and a later squeeze bunt from Sam Picchiotti made it 6-1. Greene then capped off the inning with a two-run single to left center.
Milwaukee scored twice in the bottom of the sixth, only to see Wright State answer with a run in the top of the seventh. With two outs, Mark Fowler walked, stole second and scored as Gardner singled to center.
The Panthers closed the deficit to 9-6 with three in the seventh and had the bases loaded until Joey Hoelzel retired Michael Porcaro on a ground out. Hoelzel then pitched out of another bases loaded jam in the eighth as Milwaukee, despite outhitting the Raiders 12-11, stranded 16 runners on base for the game.
The Raiders added two insurance runs in the ninth on RBI singles by Fowler and Kopale.
Hoelzel picked up his second career save by pitching the final 2.1 innings, allowing no runs with two strikeouts. Cody Kopilchack (2-1) was the winning pitcher, going the first 5.2 innings with nine strikeouts.
Offensively, Gray had three hits and two runs scored while Gardner and Kopale each had two hits and three RBI. Greene had two hits and two RBI.
Wright State (25-29) will face Valparaiso (30-26) for the championship Sunday starting at 11 am. The two teams faced each other in the 2011 finals at Nischwitz Stadium, with WSU pulling out a 4-3 win. If the Raiders win the first game, a winner-take-all second game will follow at 3 pm.