Coming in on a 10 game win streak, the Slippery Rock University baseball team faced off against the University of Pitt at Johnstown (UPJ) Monday afternoon in a makeup doubleheader. The doubleheader was originally scheduled to be played on Friday, but the weather conditions over the weekend pushed the games back to Monday.
These were games three and four in The Rock and UPJ’s four games series, with the Green and White winning both games at UPJ on Saturday.
Rock head coach Jeff Messer said that he liked having a day off in between the two doubleheaders.
“It’s really difficult to win four games, and when it’s back to back, it’s even harder,” Messer said. “I do like a day in between, it gives the guys a little bit of a rest. When you’re playing 28 innings in two days, it’s a lot of baseball.”
As a team, The Mountain Cats have one big strength and one big weakness. Out of the 16 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West teams, they are first in runs scored (230) and last in runs allowed (239). For comparison, SRU has scored 141 runs and allowed 122.
In game one on Monday, UPJ’s poor pitching doomed them. Early on it was a close game, tied at zero after the first two innings. UPJ scored in the top of the third to take a 1-0 lead, but it would not last long against the heart of The Rock batting order. Junior outfielder Luca Fuscardo lead off the bottom half of the third with a single and a stolen base and junior catcher Tyler Walters erased UPJ’s lead on the next pitch with a two-run home run over the left field fence.
Messer said that once Slippery Rock batters started seeing the UPJ starter a second time through the line-up, they had figured him out.
Pitt-Johnstown retook the lead in the top of the fourth with a two-run single, but the Rock offense was not about to slow down. The Green and White sent 13 men to the plate in the bottom of the fourth inning, scoring seven runs and going through three Mountain Cat pitchers.
SRU scored two more runs in the sixth and won the game 11-5. Junior starting pitcher Matt Gordon threw full five innings, giving up four runs and striking out six while getting the win.
Rock pitching coach John Kovalik said that Gordon had both his fastball and changeup working for him against The Mountain Cats.
“When (Gordon) was really going well today it was his changeup that was the difference,” Kovalik said. “I think he did a much better job of locating his fastball than he had at the beginning of the year. If he has both of his off-speed pitches working it’s an added bonus, but he’s a fastball/changeup guy.”
Game two was a completely different story, as Pitt-Johnstown took advantage of an uncharacteristically good pitching performance to steal a game from the series.
UPJ junior Nathan Bearer put together a complete game, pitching all seven innings while only surrendering one run and striking out five. All of this after being lit up to the tune of runs in 3.2 innings against California University (Pa.) the week before.
“How do you figure it,” Messer said. “It’s really hard to figure. He was the last guy to throw for them but he threw strikes and he was sneaky quick. He beat us single handed.”
The lone run for The Rock came on a Fuscardo ground out in the third inning that scored junior second baseman Mitchell Wood.
Slippery Rock’s pitching offered little resistance as sophomore starter Trevor Adkins gave up two runs in two innings and junior Shawn Holman and sophomore Chris Anastas both gave up multiple runs without being able to make it through one full inning.
UPJ cruised to a 9-1 victory, snapping SRU’s 11 game winning streak in the process.
Fuscardo led The Rock on the day with three hits, four runs batted in, two runs scored and two walks. Walters finished with two hits, one home run, two runs batted in, and two runs scored. Wood finished with three hits and a run scored.