Facing a tough opponent was more than a fair tradeoff for the first games played in fair weather conditions for the Slippery Rock University baseball team. In a season full of snowy fields and shivering players, 70 and sunny was the setting for last weekend’s two doubleheaders against no. 11 Mercyhurst, both of which were a split between the two clubs.
The series started Friday at Mercyhurst with dominating pitching performances from SRU. Senior Alex Pantuso started game one and gave up three runs over six innings, accumulating six strikeouts in his fourth win of the season. Pantuso’s win was preserved by junior closer Wyatt Daugherty, who accrued his sixth save of the season in a perfect seventh inning.
Offense was meek between both squads in the 4-3 SRU victory, but scoring was started with a solo homer by senior catcher Tyler Walters in the fourth inning. SRU was trailing 2-1 in the sixth before freshman phenom third baseman Abraham Mow hit a home run to tie the game.
Scoring was capped off by a two-RBI single from senior centerfielder Kyle Wise in the top of the seventh to give SRU a lead that would hold for the victory.
Senior second baseman Mitch Wood started the day off early with a solo home run in the first inning. Mercyhurst answered back with two runs, and scoring stayed stagnant until the seventh inning. Junior shortstop Joey Campagana evened-up the score with a solo homer, and was followed by senior third baseman Matt Mandes who brought in junior right fielder Frankie Jezioro with a single, giving SRU the lead 3-2.
Senior Matt Gordon was replaced in the seventh after an outstanding six-inning pitching performance where he gave up two runs and allowed four total baserunners. The usual lockdown closer Daugherty was roughed up by Mercyhurst’s stellar lineup, however, and the Lakers walked off the second game to even the series.
“We very easily could have won three [games in the series], we had our best guy out there, but they battled,” Slippery Rock head coach Jeff Messer said. “That’s why they are 11th in the country.”
The last two games were held at Jack Critchfield Park in Slippery Rock. Mow started the day off with a leadoff home run in the first inning, but that was about the only thing that went well for SRU in game one as Mercyhurst scored 11 runs off of the combination of junior Chris Anastas (3.1 innings pitched, six earned runs), who was dealt his first loss of the year, freshman Derek Boben, and junior Alex Worthington.
With the loss, SRU needed a win in game two to even the series against the nationally-ranked no. 11 Lakers. SRU brought the power that they needed, as three different players hit home run that added up to five runs for The Rock. Senior catcher Christian Porterfield and Campagna both hit solo home runs, while Walters brought home three runs with his blast.
“We still think we have some guys in our lineup that are pressing a bit and will come around,” Messer said.
Senior Ryan Tapp started the game for SRU and ended up going four innings while only allowing one run, but quickly his pitch count hit the high-80s so he was replaced in the fifth by junior Tanner Stanz. Despite giving up two runs, Stanz was able to record an elongated-save (second of the year) in a three-inning appearance to preserve the SRU win.
“Tapp came out and was very effective, he kept us in the game. Tanner Stanz, who has been outstanding out of the pen, did a great job,” Messer said. “It’s a huge win for us.”
With the split, Slippery Rock has still won 11 out of their last 13 games and will look to keep the ball rolling with a doubleheader against Bloomsburg on Wednesday that was already postponed once, due to weather.