The 2012 season began for the Slippery Rock University baseball team at VA Memorial Park with back to back doubleheaders against Ohio Valley University of West Virginia and Wheeling Jesuit University.
The Rock started their season on Saturday by sweeping their first doubleheader against Ohio Valley University with a 5-2 victory in the first game and a 5-4 victory in the second.
Sophomore starting pitcher Lou Trivino pitched all seven innings, recorded eight strikeouts, and earned the win in the first game.
On the batting side, sophomore right fielder Brandon Myers hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning to clinch the first victory of the season. In game two of Saturday’s doubleheader, senior pitcher Zach Jeney earned the victory by pitching four strikeouts in four shutout innings of relief work. After trailing 4-2, The Rock came up big once again in the sixth inning, rallying to tie the game at four runs each. Sophomore Will Kengor drove in the game-winning run in the seventh inning.
On Sunday The Rock was not as successful against regional rival Wheeling Jesuit University, losing both games of the doubleheader. In game one, The Rock had offensive struggles by only producing three hits and two runs in a 3-2 loss. Game two of the doubleheader went into extra innings, where The Rock gave up five unearned runs in the top of the ninth due to four errors.
Despite scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth, the lead built by WJU was too much for Slippery Rock to overcome, and the game ended with a final score of 6-3. Senior catcher Matt Accardi had two hits in game two, driving in all three runs for The Rock.
According to Trivino, the team looked strong over the first four games, despite losing the two games on Sunday.
“We struggled defensively and at the plate on Sunday, but we have a solid team,” Trivino said. “We’ll perform better defensively and offensively as the year goes on, so I’m looking forward to seeing the improvement throughout the season.”
According to preseason polls, Slippery Rock was picked to finish number two in the PSAC-West Division behind reigning PSAC champion Mercyhurst University, which was picked to finish in first. SRU received one number one vote, and Mercyhurst received the others. Coach Jeff Messer said that Mercyhurst gets an edge because of their pitching staff, but overall the top four teams in each division of the PSAC all have a legitimate chance to compete for the PSAC title.
“I think we’ll see more parity in the conference than ever before,” Messer said. “It’s going to be extremely competitive this season. It’s nice to be considered by our peers as a top team in the PSAC, but when it comes down to it, we need to get the job done.”
After the weekend games, the Rock is off to a 2-2 start. Senior left fielder and captain Carter Haponski is leading the team in batting average with six hits in 13 at bats. Accardi and Myers are leading the team in RBIs with three each. The Rock has seven returning pitchers including Jeney, Trivino, and sophomore Ryan Oglesby. Oglesby was last year’s PSAC-West Freshman of the Year and earned first-team all PSAC honors while Jeney and Trivino both earned second-team all PSAC honors.
According to senior pitcher Jason Steen, the pitching staff is “extremely strong from starters, to relievers, to closers.”
“There’s a lot of talent and a lot of potential for this season. If we can come together as a team, we can put together a strong season in the PSAC,” Steen said.
According to both Messer and Steen, there are a lot of new faces on the team this season, which puts an emphasis on team chemistry.
“We have new junior college guys, transfers, and a number of new faces,” Messer said. “It takes time to mesh. We have 18 games before PSAC play begins, which should give us time to mesh and figure out who our weekend starters will be and what our lineup will look like.”
Expectations are high for Slippery Rock to compete for a PSAC championship after finishing last season with a 27-19 record. This weekend, the Rock has a four game series against Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania.
Two games will be played on Saturday, Feb. 25 at The Ripken Baseball Academy in Aberdeen, Maryland, and two games will be played on Sunday, Feb. 26 at Shippensburg University’s field.