The Slippery Rock University baseball team split a doubleheader against rival California University (Pa.) on Sunday afternoon; The Rock won game one 12-1 and dropped game two 8-3
Senior pitcher Preston Falascino was the star of the show for game one, improving on his already career-best season by giving up a lone run over 6.1 innings. Falascino also struck out four batters while giving up seven hits, and walking one, earning his fifth win of the season. Falascino, a former two-way player, mentioned how focusing on pitching has benefited him this year.
“I’m used to being a dual player and it was a big change to just calm down and focus on pitching,” Falascino said. “I worked on it throughout the fall to morph my pitches and help everything come around. Now I feel much more consistency with my pitches and I can throw pitches I couldn’t in the past.
Pitching was not the only thing that was clicking on Sunday as the Green and White bats came alive all over the lineup, with eight different players driving in runs. Senior first-baseman Carson Kessler plated the most runs with three, whilst going 2-4 with a double and scoring a run. After hitting a grand slam the previous day, Kessler talked about how his power has come about as-of-late.
“I’ve had kind of bad luck all season–just lining out to everywhere,” Kessler said. “They say that in baseball if you keep hitting them hard they will eventually fall, I never got discouraged or angry, I just kept my approach and obviously things are starting to turn around a little bit.”
Slippery Rock head coach Jeff Messer echoed that sentiment, commenting on Kessler’s performance in the past few games. “Carson has been just unconscious, the ball must look like a balloon coming in.”
The rest of the Rock infield felt the power as well, with junior catcher Tyler Walters going 1-4, junior second baseman Mitchell Wood going 1-4, and junior Third baseman Matt Mendes going 2-4. All three drove in one run and scored at least one run, with Mendes scoring two.
With Mendes penciled in as the full-time third basemen, Slippery Rock has more consistency than every in the lineup, which both Kessler and sophomore Joey Campagna said contributes to the offensive production greatly.
“In baseball, consistency is the main thing,” said Kessler. “It’s nice knowing that the lineup one through six never changes. The consistency helps for sure.”
Campagna added to that sentiment, stating that “Our lineup is so solid. Up and down the lineup- there is not one guy on this baseball team who can’t hit, including guys who come off of the bench. I know for a fact that these guys can all hit. I know if I get on I have as good a chance of scoring with the eight or nine hitteri behind me as a do with the three or four-hitter behind me.”
After starting the year with a three-man rotation at first base, Messer feels the team has finally found an everyday starter. “He did today. We left it open for anybody really, Matt’s numbers aren’t the greatest and he has the most errors, but he has the edge right now. He had a good day.”
Junior Christian Porterfield started game one at DH and continued his stellar season, plating his 31st and 32nd runs while going a perfect 3-3 on the day, also scoring a run and walking once.
The Slippery Rock outfield continued to get it done, albeit fighting through some injuries. Junior Left-fielder Luca Fuscardo, who came into the contest ninth in the nation in batting average, went 2-2. However, in the third inning, Fuscardo hit and RBI-double but came up limp when careening into second base. Fuscardo was then pinch-ran for by sophomore outfielder Frankie Jezioro.
“He’s had a strained hamstring, and he just strained it again today,” Messer said. “He was at about 50 percent, so it was better to get him out there in the lineup. He’s our best hitter overall. I noticed it before the hit on a fly-ball that he couldn’t really run after it, and none of these guys tell you because they want to stay in. He should be okay for the weekend, but you just never know with a hamstring.”
After his late entry into the game, Jezioro went 2-3 and brought home run one, also scoring two. Senior Right-fielder Jimmy Divosevic continued his fantastic year in the leadoff spot, reaching base four more times, thrice by hit and once by walk while also coming home three times. Rounding out the Rock outfield was junior outfielder Kyle Wise, who went 1-3 with an RBI.
Game two was a different tale for The Rock, who just couldn’t get the bats going enough to best Cal U.
“When you do well, the energy is there and you don’t have to worry about saying you didn’t have enough energy, I just think they wanted it a little bit more than they did, their backs were to the wall. We could have put the nail in the coffin with a fourth win, but we walked guys and they didn’t–bottom line.”
Slippery Rock was only able to manage three runs off of six hits and did not draw a single walk the entire game.
Both Divosevic and Jezioro had peculiar batting lines, as both went 0-3 while driving in a run apiece. The other run came off of Porterfield’s bat, who started at catcher and went 1-3.
The rest of the hits came from the bottom of Slippery Rock’s lineup, with Wood going 2-3 while scoring a run, and Mendes going 1-3. Sophomore Shortstop Joey Campagna continued his constituency at the plate with a 1-3 day, scoring a run. Campagna elaborated on what has made him better at the plate recently.
“I’ve just been seeking fastball trying to attack the ball,” Campagna said. “Now I’m attacking the baseball expecting it to come right down the middle, and if it’s not I’ll just react to it. It’s been working so I’m gonna keep doing it”
Pitching was a struggle for Slippery Rock, as nobody has been able to solidify themselves as the team’s fourth starter, especially with a player going down due to injury.
“Markovic got hit in the face and broke his nose. In BP he was in the outfield and took a line drive smack in the face–I thought he was dead. He may have got the nod for game four, but now he’s getting evaluated by the surgeon,” Messer Said. “The four spot is up in the air.”
Sophomore Trevor Adkins started the game and left not-long-after, surrendering five runs in only two innings off of five walks and three hits.
“You can’t walk people,” Messer said about Adkins’ performance. “Especially California (Pa.), they don’t need any extra base-runners.”
This made a long day for SRU’s bullpen, as sophomore Wyatt Daugherty and senior Josh Coleman had to combine for five innings of relief.
Both performed well, as Daugherty gave up one run over three innings off of a walk and three hits, while Coleman allowed two runs (one earned) over two innings off of four hits and a walk. The three pitchers combined to only strike out two Vulcans the entire game.
Sunday’s split leaves Slippery Rock at 21-14 and 12-8 in conference play. Slippery Rock entered the weekend tied for second in the PSAC-West, but after winning three-of-four against Cal U, now stand alone at second place with eight conference games left.
Slippery Rock will play a pair of doubleheaders against Gannon this weekend; away on Friday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and home on Saturday and 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.