The two halves of Thursday’s doubleheader were nigh and day for the Slippery Rock baseball team as they took on Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West rival Clarion University.
The games were originally scheduled to be played on Friday at Clarion, however due to uncertainty about the weather they were moved up to be played on Thursday and relocated to Kelly Automotive Field in Butler, Pa.
Game one featured a pair of stellar pitching performances that pushed the game into extra innings. Alex Pantuso was on the mound for The Rock while Kane McCall toed the rubber for the Golden Eagles. The junior Pantuso has been The Rock’s ace thus far this season, giving up only three earned runs pitching 17.1 innings with 28 strikeouts over three starts prior to this game. Similarly, McCall has been Clarion’s best starter, pitching 16 innings, giving up eight runs and striking out 14 over his first three starts.
Both pitchers started off the game shaky, giving up runs in the first inning, but rebounded and really shut the opposing offenses down the rest of the way. In the top of the first, junior catcher Tyler Walters singled with two outs and was brought home on a double by junior designated hitter Christian Porterfield, giving SRU a 1-0 lead. Clarion came storming right back, taking advantage of a leadoff walk issued by Pantuso by hitting two straight run-scoring doubles to take a 2-0 lead. Pantuso would strike out two of the nest three batters to escape the inning.
From there both starters were locked in, keeping the game scoreless until the fifth inning. In the top of the fifth, senior outfielder Jimmy Divosevic singles to start the inning and was later driven in on a single by Walters. Walters stole second base and later scored on a Clarion error, putting The Rock back on top 3-2.
In the bottom of the sixth, Pantuso was trying to pitch one more clean inning before turning the ball over the SRU’s bullpen to hopefully close out the game. Clarion, however, was not going down without a fight. With runners on first and third with one out, Clarion shortstop Joey Lopez laid down a bunt. Walters fielded the ball and threw to second, hoping to turn a double play, but the throw to first was not in time and Clarion tied the game at 3. it was Lopez’s second run batted in of the game. After six, both starting pitchers were done. Pantuso finished with six innings pitched, with three earned runs given up on three hits while striking out 10. McCall scattered seven hits across 5.2 innings, giving up two earned runs and striking out six.
With the heart of the order up in the top of the seventh, SRU could not push any runs across and turned to senior reliever Josh Coleman to force the game into extra innings. Despite a hit and an error, Coleman pitched a clean bottom of the seventh and the game went into extras.
SRU again went down quietly in the top of the eighth and Coleman got into a jam in the bottom of the inning. After a single and two walks, Coleman was faced with bases loaded, one out situation with Clarion senior John Finke at the plate looking to win the game for his team. Finke has been struggling to start the year, batting only .190 through 11 games, but it was only going to take one run for him to win the game. Coleman induced a ground ball out of Finke that went to Rock second baseman, junior Mitchell Wood. Wood threw the ball to sophomore shortstop Joe Campagna covering second who threw it on to first to complete the 4-6-3 double play and give the Green and White new life.
In the top of the ninth, The Rock bats finally came back to life. Junior third baseman Matt Mandes stood on second base with two outs when Clarion decided to intentionally walk Walters, bringing up Porterfield. Porterfield singled into left-center field, scoring Mandes and giving The Rock a 4-3 lead in the ninth inning. Coleman pitched a clean bottom of the ninth, securing the game one win for SRU.
In game two, Slippery Rock scored early and often to cruise to a 13-4 win. The Green and White scored three runs in the first and fourth innings and six in the sixth. Leading the offensive charge was junior outfielder Luca Fuscardo with four hits and two runs batted in, Porterfield with three runs batted in and senior first baseman Carson Kessler with two hits and two runs batted in.
Getting the win for Slippery Rock was senior Preston Falascino. Falascino worked around ten hits in five innings, giving up only four earned runs and striking out two.
On the day, Fuscardo and Walters led the team with four hits each, Walter led the team with four runs scored and Porterfield led the team with five runs batted in.
The Rock will face Clarion again in another doubleheader on Saturday, this time playing at home in Jack Critchfield park. Junior pitcher Matt Gordon is expected to start game one, with game two’s starter left in doubt due to an arm injury to junior Tyler Markovic that has held him out of game action since March fourth. The games are scheduled to start at one and three.