Rock baseball earned its sixth win of the season Sunday afternoon in a 22-4 route over University of Pitt-Johnstown (UPJ), but the celebration was short-lived after the Mountain Cats stormed back to take game two of the doubleheader 12-4.
The Rock’s offense stormed out of the gate hot in the first inning, putting up 10 runs on nine hits which included a three-run home run by sophomore Tyler Walters, a two-run single by sophomore Christian Porterfield and a two-run triple by sophomore Mitchell Wood.
The Rock scored three more runs in the second inning and then scored seven more in the third. At the end of the third inning, Slippery Rock had a commanding 20-0 lead over UPJ. Walters led SRU’s offense with five hits and five RBI’s. His home run was his seventh of the season and 20th in his career. He now sits tied sixth all-time in SRU history for home runs with 2003 Rock grad Mike Sikorski.
Sophomore Matt Gordon had a solid day on the mound for SRU in game one. He went all seven innings giving up four runs, only two were earned. Gordon also had six strikeouts on seven hits.
“Matt is the type of pitcher that is always going to go out and throw strikes and put your team in a good situation to win,” Rock head coach Messer said. “Offensively, we hit everything in sight. We show at times that we are capable of doing that and sometimes we don’t.”
In game two, SRU held a 2-1 advantage heading into the sixth inning before allowing the Mountain Cats to score four runs in the top half of the inning. UPJ would score another seven runs in the top of the seventh inning to secure its victory.
Sophomore Shawn Holman started the game for SRU, going five innings while allowing two runs on six hits, four strikeouts and two walks. Junior Preston Falascino replaced Holman in the sixth.
Falascino went 1.1 innings and allowed seven runs, earning the loss. He was replaced by sophomore Andrew Null in the seventh inning who recorded the final two outs of the game.
Messer credited some of The Rock’s pitching struggles to some of his players inexperience pitching at the collegiate level, but he expects them to improve as time goes on.
“The game-plan is for our guys to mature as time goes on,” Messer said. “I think our biggest battle as far as guys getting their time on the mound has not been so much a physical battle, but more of a mental battle.”
SRU returns to the field for its home opener against Mercyhurst University Friday. The doubleheader begins a four-game weekend series with the Lakers, who were ranked first overall in the nation in preseason rankings.
According to Messer, he believes the second game of the series is the most important game for his team to win.
“In that first game, you run out there with your top arm going against their top pitcher, who is probably the best in the conference,” Messer said. “You know that he is going to give you a good game, so you know your pitcher will have to be 100 percent on. In that second game, if you can’t get to their top guy in the first game, you want an experienced pitcher such as John Anderson on the mound to put your team in its best opportunity to win.”
First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m. at SRU’s Jack Critchfield Park.