The Slippery Rock university baseball team split a doubleheader against Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) East member Bloomsburg in non-conference play on Tuesday.
Game one started at 2 p.m., and the final score of a 14-6 Rock loss is one that does not tell the story of the game. Due to playing four games in the previous four days, SRU was short on pitching and had to start sophomore Jay Cortese, who usually comes out of the bullpen. Cortese only had 12.2 innings pitched coming into the contest, but shined as a spot starter, giving The Rock four solid innings while only giving up two runs and four hits.
“He did a good job,” head coach Jeff Messer said of Cortese’s performance. “Bloomsburg is about as good one through five as we’re going to see. We knew that going in, but he did well.”
As usual, the offense was highlighted by junior catcher Tyler Walters. Walters went 2-4 with two RBIs and hit his sixth home run of the season. This pushes Walters’s career home run total up to 31 and ranks him at 18th in the nation for RBIs per game.
Sophomore shortstop Joe Campagna continued to show consistency at the plate, going 2-4 with an RBI.
“He’s really solidified our middle,” Messer said.
The Rock outfield continued to perform well all-around, highlighted by junior transfer Luca Fuscardo, The Rock’s left-fielder. Fuscardo is currently ninth in the nation with a batting average of .442 and upheld that reputation with a 2-5 performance, also scoring a run.
Senior right-fielder James Divosevic continued a solid year at the plate, also going 2-5 with a run scored, and adding an RBI. The other notable Green and White outfielder was sophomore center-fielder Frankie Jezioro, who did not start the game. Jezioro pinch-hit in the seventh inning and plated a run on a triple, bringing the game to within one run. Jezioro then scored on a fielding error to tie the game.
Both teams scored in the eighth inning to show a 6-6 tie, but then the wheels fell off for Slippery Rock when sophomore pitcher Alex Worthington gave up eight runs in the top of the ninth, and Slippery Rock could not get those eight runs back and fell to the huskies 14-6.
“We got extended a bit with guys who are able to throw,” Messer said. “We have confidence in all of our guys that they can throw, it’s just that some are more ready than others, having more experience. I was glad our guys battled back and had two opportunists to win it, but we give Bloomsburg credit as they didn’t quit either.”
Game two was also a low-scoring affair through the majority of the game.
“I did not think either one of them was going to be low-scoring,” Messer said. “Both myself and the coach from Bloomsburg told each other, ‘I hope we can keep it under two touchdowns each’ because we knew they were in the same situation as us with our pitchers. We knew the low-scoring wasn’t going to last. We needed that second game.”
Another spot-starter shone brightly for Slippery Rock in junior Tyler Markovic, who was slated to be one of The Rock’s main starters before his injury. Markovic gave up a lone run in 5.1 innings and earned his first win of the season while only allowing five base-runners.
“He did an outstanding job for us. We didn’t have anybody really to throw this game for us. We didn’t think we’d get five innings out of him,” Messer said. “We knew he was tired but he kept going out there and making some pitches. He did a great job.”
Building off a great performance in the former half of the doubleheader, Rock outfielders produced four of Slippery Rock’s five runs in the win. Fuscardo added two more hits in four at-bats while both driving in and scoring a run. Jezioro went a perfect 2-2 with a walk, also driving in and scoring a run. Divosevic had the best performance of the evening, smashing a two-run home run.
“You gotta take it the same the whole time, you know it’s going to be a long day especially playing four games every weekend,” Divosevic said. “You just got to have the same mentality and have the entire team up the whole time. It can get tiring in times like the first game with how long it was, but we always try to be in the game.”
Rock infielders also had a quality game, highlighted by Campagna, who drove in another run while going 1-2. Senior first baseman Carson Kessler and junior second basemen Mitchell Wood both went 1-3, with Messer giving praise to the entire infield.
“Once Mitch moved to second, he’s become 100 percent clearer and has done a great job,” Messer said. “Mitch could hit up in the top of the lineup, he’s a tough out. Carson has been solid, he’s probably hitting the best .250 in the conference. He hits the ball hard, just usually right at people.”
Sophomore Trevor Adkins showed off his rubber-arm on the day. After pitching two perfect innings in game one, Adkins gave The Rock another inning in game two to set up senior Preston Falascino. While Falascino gave up a three-run home run (two of the runs charged to Adkins) in the seventh to put the game to within one run, Falscino hung tough to strike out two of the last three batters and secure his first save of the year, and The Rock’s 18th win.
“He stepped up to us and said ‘I have an inning if you need it,'” Messer said. “We knew we had him in the back of the bullpen, and he only made one bad pitch and the kid deposited it in left field, but that’s baseball. He did exactly what we wanted him to.”
After splitting the two games Tuesday, Slippery Rock stands with an 18-13 overall record.
“It’s not any one particular person, and that’s the great part about it,” Divosevic said. “If the top of the lineup isn’t hitting, the bottom is just as able to go out and take charge and create the first few runs. Same thing with the pitching: if it’s not the starter’s day, some reliever is ready to come in and perform against the other team. It’s definitely great to have that kind of depth on our team.”
Slippery Rock will again play four games in two days this weekend, as California University (Pa.) will visit for a doubleheader on Friday before The Rock travels to CalU for another doubleheader on Saturday.