Power pitching and hitting lead Rock baseball in Florida

Published by adviser, Author: Justin Kraus - Sports Editor, Date: March 22, 2018
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A vast change of weather from Slippery Rock, Kissimmee, Florida was the host for Slippery Rock baseball’s spring break trip. The Rock played eight games over the course of seven days, claiming four wins.

“Overall, it was a really good trip, we played well, it’s one of the best trips we’ve ever had,” Slippery Rock head coach Jeff Messer said.

Slippery Rock started the trip with a doubleheader against Grand Valley State University. The Green and White split the day, losing the first game 2-5 and winning the second 7-2.

SRU then spent the next six days playing six games against four different schools. SRU swept Wayne State with 11-7 and 9-8 wins. An offensive explosion led to a 25-1 thumping of Mansfield by SRU, who lost the second game against the mountaineers, 7-6. SRU’s other two games were losses against Northwood (5-3) and #13 West Chester (24-15).

“There was no easy team down there,” Messer said.

Slippery Rock swept the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West honors of the week with an outstanding week by two seniors.

On the mound, Starting pitcher Matt Gordon won pitcher of the week awards after pitching seven shutout innings during SRU’s drumming of Mansfield. Gordon  struck out seven and walked zero en route to his second win of the year.

“We were expecting great things from him, and he hasn’t let us down,” Messer said.

In the batters box, Catcher/ Designated Hitter Christian Porterfield earned not only the PSAC-West batter of the week, but claimed that same honor for the NCBWA Atlantic Region. Porterfield did so by batting .454 with nine RBIs, two home runs, four doubles and scoring 12 runs. Porterfield is also currently second in the PSAC in slugging percentage, slugging .889.

“He has helped to spearhead the beginning of the season for us, he’s off to an incredible start,” Messer said.

Splitting the crouch with Porterfield is senior Tyler Walters, who also had an exceptional offensive weekend splitting time at catcher and first base. Walters had the bat taken out of his hand often, as he was walked seven times, but when he did get the chance to swing, he did damage with a .435 average, 11 RBIs, two home runs, five doubles and two stolen bases while scoring 12 runs. When Walters isn’t playing first, the job goes to sophomore Tyler Merigliano, who collected two RBI’s and a double over the week.

Third base will be a hotly contested position for The Rock infield this year, as last years’ starter, Senior Matt Mandes, will battle freshman Abraham Mow for the position. Mandes batted .267 during the week, collecting four RBIs and hitting a triple. Mow shined in his first real test as an SRU batter, batting .433 with nine RBIs, five doubles, a home run and a stolen base.

“Mow has to be in the lineup,” Messer said. “Whether he’s playing third base or DH, he was unconscious [this week], he’s had as good of a start as any freshman we’ve ever had.”

Senior Mitch Wood provided needed stability at second base, starting seven of eight games for The Rock there. Wood batted .354 while driving in four runs, and hitting six extra base hits (four doubles, two triples.) The other start went to junior Ray Scala, who went 4-7 (.571)  with two RBIs, a double, and a walk for the week.

Rounding out The Rock infield is junior Joey Campagna, who had a tremendous outing offensively. Campagna, who usually plays for his stellar glove at short, was second on the team in batting with a .451 average and drove in a team-high 12 runs, walking five times and hitting five extra base hits (four doubles, one home run) along the way.

“Joe has the best hands on the team. He’s great defensively, and he will surprise you offensively as well, he solidifies the middle of the order for us,” Messer said.

The Rock outfield looked mostly the same throughout the week, with senior Luca Fuscardo starting every game at Left field and senior Kyle Wise starting every game at center field. Junior Frankie Jezioro started all but one game at right field. Fuscardo batted .278 out of the leadoff slot, driving in 10 runs and hitting a home run. Wise struggled offensively, batting .147 and recording a lone RBI in eight games. Jezioro batted .323 and drove in eight runs whilst hitting two home runs and a double, also scoring eight runs. The other start in right was made by freshman Bo Williams, who scored two runs despite going 0-3.

Besides Gordon, SRU had other standout performers on the mound as well. Junior Tanner Stanz showed versatility, both making a start and appearing in relief en route to his 3.86 ERA in seven innings pitched, recording a win and seven strikeouts.

“Pitching-wise, we were where we wanted to be,” Messer said. “Our starters went deep into games, it can be a struggle if starters can only go one, two or three innings. Our starting pitchers were outstanding.”

Senior Alex Pantuso, despite finishing second on the team in ERA at 3.75, left the week with a 0-1 record in his two starts. Pantuso pitched a team-high 12 innings and also recorded a team-high in strikeouts (17).

Junior Ryan Tapp was the only other Rock starter to record a win, holding a 4.91 ERA over 11 innings while recording 11 strikeouts. The other win was given to last year’s closer, junior Wyatt Daugherty. He struck out three and gave up 3 runs in 3.1 innings pitched, leading to a 1-1 record for the week.

“Daugherty will have more good days than he will bad days,” Messer said.

SRU received solid bullpen support with senior Andrew Null recording a 4.76 ERA in 5.2 innings, and junior Chris Anastas recording a 4.26 ERA in 6.1 innings.

With SRU’s season record now at 7-5, they will turn their attention to the start of conference play with doubleheaders versus Seton Hill this weekend.

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