Rock earns series split against Mercyhurst in dramatic fashion

SRU baseball split their four-game weekend series against the Lakers with two impressive pitching performances

Published by Aidan Treu, Date: April 1, 2024

The Rock advanced their conference record to 5-3 by going 2-2 against Mercyhurst University over the weekend.

The Rock was ready out of the gate in game one. Joey Purcell, the author of a recent combined no-hitter, led off the game with a double. An Eddie Morris double, Michael Kitko groundout and Noah Ross flyout later already had the White and Green up two in the top of the first.

SRU threatened again in the top of the third. Purcell walked and stole second with one out, eventually reaching third on a wild pitch, but he would not score.

Mercyhurst almost got a run back after a leadoff triple in the bottom of the frame. The three-bagger was all for naught as Rock starter Gage Gillott stranded him there.

To say offense was at a premium the rest of the way would be an understatement. The two ballclubs combined for just four hits over the next six-and-a-half innings.

Gillott seemed comfortable with the early two-run cushion, mowing down the Lakers the rest of the way to toss a complete game shutout.

The righty allowed just four total baserunners, a double, a triple and two walks, striking out six during his seven-inning masterpiece that polished off a two-to-nothing victory.

Game two did not go to plan. After a scoreless first two innings, a six-run Laker outburst in the third put The Rock too far behind for a comeback effort.

A single and an error landed Gillott on third to lead off the top of the seventh. Caelan Bender’s single brought him home for Slippery Rock’s lone run of the game.

Game two starter for The Rock, Parker Hogge, was tagged for six runs over three innings, but only two of them came across earned.

Mercyhurst finished with a six-run win, the final coming to 7-1.

Game three of the four-game set, the first on Saturday, followed a similar path.

The Lakers jumped out to a six-run advantage after a Ranciel Vent RBI groundout in the second and six-hit, five-run top of the third.

Cam Panyko-Morris punched back with a solo shot in the bottom of the frame, but the Laker lead was already too much. Mercyhurst tacked on two runs in the seventh to bring the final score to 8-1.

The Laker’s Corbin Foy threw a complete game to earn the win. Purcell started this one and was tagged with the loss.

The Rock’s bats came back in game four.

They got on the board quick when Purcell singled and scored on another single by Ross in the bottom of the first. SRU put up three more on a Koby Bubash bases-loaded triple in the third.

The White and Green scored their last run when Purcell knocked in Brandon Butler with a groundout.

Meanwhile, Michael Kitko, the other pitcher involved in the recent no-hitter, was tossing another gem. He struck out four and only allowed five baserunners through his 5.2 innings of work.

Robert Herr replaced Kitko and recorded the final out of the top of the sixth, but ran into some trouble after allowing a pair of singles and three walks on which the Lakers scored two runs, cutting the 5-0 lead down to a three-run lead.

Herr, who already has a save this year, was able to tally a strikeout but could not finish the game off.

Nate Malak came in with the bases loaded and one out for the save chance. Mercyhurst runners went station to station on a Luke Jackson single in the first plate appearance against Malak, with the run attributed to Herr, but the 6-foot-3 righty locked it down from there.

After falling behind Chris Juchno, Malak coaxed a weak popout to Bubash off the bat. He then spun a low and away slider to Mitchell Gro with two strikes and two outs, ending the game on a whiff.

The sophomore tallied the first save of his Rock career and came off the mound with a triumphant fist pump to boot.

Coming off the series split against Mercyhurst, The Rock has a non-PSAC game against the University of Charleston this Tuesday, shortly followed by an important PSAC-West rivalry set against Indiana University (Pa.) on Friday and Saturday.


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