The Slippery Rock University baseball team holds a 14-5 (1-1 PSAC) record after splitting a double header against rival Lock Haven University on Sunday at Pullman Park in Butler and is currently ranked 25th in the National College Baseball Writers poll.
The Rock also showed a strong display over spring break at the Russmatt Invitational in Florida, posting a 5-2 record, including a 7-3 win over previously unbeaten Division 1 Dartmouth College.
On March 9 and 10, Slippery Rock traveled to Shippensburg and dropped two of three to the 13th ranked Shippensburg Raiders.
Head coach Jeff Messer was not happy with his squad’s split against Lock Haven.
“It was a team effort that we got beat,” Messer said, “Lock Haven is a scrappy team and they’ll get some wins, but everyone feels as if we let the first game slip away. Anybody in our conference can beat anybody.”
In the first game of the doubleheader against Lock Haven on Sunday, SRU held a 3-0 lead going into the final inning of play, only to give up four runs in the final frame.
Sophomore third baseman Jake Nogalo scored the first run of the game on a wild pitch from the Bald Eagles.
Slippery Rock added two more runs off a single from junior center fielder Jake Weibley. Junior starting pitcher Lou Trivino had an excellent first six innings, but a shaky final frame. Trivino ended the game giving up four hits and two earned runs with seven strikeouts.
Junior John Kovalik came into the game with a 3-1 lead with the bases juiced and no outs for Lock Haven. The Bald Eagles used some sacrifices and singles to get three more runs around to take a 4-3 lead.
Slippery Rock was unable to muster up any offense in the final frame and dropped the first game of the doubleheader.
The Rock got redemption in the second game, while receiving a stellar outing from sophomore starter Kyle Schneider, who gave up only one hit to go along with four strikeouts in a full seven innings of work.
Junior first baseman Kevin Jovanovich drove in Kengor for the game’s first run. Junior right fielder Brandon Myers and Weibley drove in the next two runs for SRU giving Schneider all the run support he would need in a 3-0 victory.
“The performance against Lock Haven was as good as it
was due to a lot of first pitch strikes,” Schneider said, “And most importantly the extremely strong defense behind me. My teammates did an incredible job behind me making me comfortable to let Lock Haven put the ball in play.”
Messer called Schneider’s outing “a coach’s dream.” Schneider threw only 58 pitches in the contest.
Over the spring break, the Rock hardballers traveled down to Florida to play in the Russmatt Invitational. Slippery Rock ended the tournament with a 5-2 record.
“Down in Florida we were all playing loose and having fun,” Kengor said, “This group plays best when we’re loose.”
The Rock started off with a doubleheader against Wayne State on March 15. SRU took the first game 3-2, but lost the second in a 16-2 blowout. Afterwards, Slippery Rock had two games in two days against West Chester University.
West Chester won the first game 4-3 and Slippery Rock claimed the second game 4-1. The next two days, Slippery Rock would also win 7-3 against Hillsdale College and 14-4 over the University of Minnesota Duluth.
The highlight of the tournament came against division one Dartmouth College. Dartmouth came into the match undefeated, but Slippery Rock made sure they didn’t leave that way. SRU used a huge second inning, in which they scored six runs to help propel them to a huge 7-3 win over Dartmouth.
Sophomore Anton Constantino gave up seven hits in seven innings to go along with four strikeouts.
“We had a very good Florida trip,” Messer said, “I would have been happy going 4-3 down there. The Dartmouth win was huge for us.”
After dropping two of three to Shippensburg on March 9 and 10, Messer believes his team is as good as or even better than Shippensburg.
“We won’t be intimidated by them when we face them in the playoffs.” Messer said.
Slippery Rock has a busy home schedule this weekend, with doubleheaders against Clarion on Friday and Saturday, as well as a doubleheader against West Liberty on Monday. All games will be played at Jack Critchfield Park.