The Slippery Rock University baseball team concluded their season on Thursday after finishing their regular season with a 31-19 (13-11) record and earning the fourth seed in the playoffs for the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference-West division.
SRU began their playoff season on Thursday morning against the top ranked team from the PSAC-East division, Millersville. SRU would send junior Lou Trivino to the mound. Trivino gave up four runs off of seven hits in seven innings of work. He also struck out six and walked two. The Rock couldn’t get the bats going in their first playoff game, as they only mustered up four hits in nine innings.
Juniors Anthony Naso and Zac Anderson finished off the eighth inning for Trivino. Naso gave up one run, as SRU fell in their first playoff game 5-0. The loss pitted them against Gannon for the fifth time in less than a week.
“We still feel pretty good,” junior Will Kengor said after the loss to Millersville. “Gannon will be tough, but we’ve seen everyone they got.We just need to swing the bats and throw strikes. We’ll be fine if that happens.”
The Green and White sent sophomore Garret Peterson to the mound against Gannon on Thursday afternoon. Peterson pitched four and two thirds innings, giving up five runs off of seven hits while striking out two and walking one. Gannon got off to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but the Rock came back when senior John Shaffer drove in Kengor on a fielders’ choice.
Gannon scored three runs in the fifth inning and one in the second to increase their lead to 6-1. Junior Kevin Jovanovich drove in Kengor for his second run of the game to make it 6-2. Gannon would score three runs in the next three innings to make it 9-2. Sophomore Jake Nogalo homered in the bottom of the ninth, but that was the closest SRU would get as they were eliminated from the conference championship after the 9-3 loss.
SRU travelled to Erie on Friday for a doubleheader against Gannon University. The Rock came into the weekend in a tie for fourth place in their division with Indiana University of Pennsylvania. The fourth seed was in play for both teams until the very end.
The Rock would send Trivino to the mound for game one of the series. Trivino had another stellar outing, pitching nine innings of shutout ball giving up only six hits, while striking out thirteen batters and walking only one.
Slippery Rock found themselves in a pitchers’ duel between Trivino and Gannon’s ace that would require extra innings. The two teams battled through eight innings of scoreless baseball. The Rock’s bats came alive in the ninth. Kengor started off the four hit inning for SRU with an infield single. Junior Brandon Myers would drive in Kengor two batters later on a pinch hit single.
Senior Austin Benshadle drove in the second run of the game after Jovanovich crossed the plate. Nogalo drove Myers across the plate to give the Rock a 3-0 lead in extra frames. Trivino shut down Gannon in the bottom of the ninth to seal the win for Slippery Rock. Kengor had two of SRU’s six hits.
The second game saw the Rock send Peterson to the mound. Peterson pitched five innings, giving up one run on five hits, while striking out four and walking only one. Gannon got their one run by Peterson in the bottom of the fourth inning. SRU would tie it back up in the top of the seventh after Nogalo drove in Benshadle on an RBI single.
Kovalik came in for SRU in the sixth inning. Gannon would get a run off a walk-off double in the bottom of the seventh to get the 2-1 win. Kovalik finished the game giving up one earned run off of one hit and a walk, while striking out three in one and a third innings.
Both teams travelled back to SRU on Saturday for another doubleheader at Jack Critchfield Park. Sophomore Kyle Schneider got the nod for the first Saturday game. Schneider pitched five and two thirds innings, giving up six runs off of ten hits, while walking only one and striking out four.
Slippery Rock got off to a 2-0 lead in the first inning with an RBI single from Shaffer and a sacrifice fly from Nogalo. Gannon cut the lead in half in the top of the third. Schneider hit a bump in the top of the sixth where Gannon scored five runs. Kovalik came in with two outs in the sixth and shut down Gannon from that point. Myers would score a run in the bottom of the seventh as Gannon would go on to win 6-3. The loss put Slippery Rock in a do-or-die regular season finale.
“It wouldn’t be as fun if there wasn’t anything at stake.” Shaffer said.
Junior Mike Dunn got the call in the pivotal finale, pitching three and a third innings, giving up one run off of three hits while walking and striking out one. Gannon got their first run of the game in the first inning after a bases loaded walk.
The Rock came back in the bottom of the second after Kengor drove in Benshadle on a fielder’s choice. The game stayed at 1-1 until the bottom of the fifth inning after a Benshadle sacrifice fly and a Nogalo bases loaded walk.
Redshirt freshman Jon Anderson came in during the fourth inning to finish off the game. Anderson pitched three and two third innings of shutout ball, giving up only two hits while striking out three and walking two. Two of Anderson’s strikeouts came in the top of the seventh to preserve a 3-1 lead for SRU.
Slippery Rock had six athletes named to the all PSAC-west team on Tuesday. First team honorees were Kengor and Shaffer, while junior Jake Weibley, Trivino, Kovalik, and Jovanovich were all named to the second team.