The Slippery Rock University baseball team took part in a four-game weekend matchup against school rival Indiana University (Pa.). The first two games took place on Saturday afternoon at IUP followed by two more games on Sunday afternoon at Jack Critchfield Park in Slippery Rock. The Rock was in complete control of all four games and ultimately won each game with final scores of 7-3, 13-4, 2-0, and 6-5, respectively. Rock head coach Jeff Messer said beating a rival like IUP is always fun.
“We could be in first, they could be in last, and vice versa and it’ll still be like you’re playing in a backyard brawl,” Messer said. “Most of our players know their players, so it’s even that much more of an impact.”
In game one of the series, Rock senior Luca Fuscardo ignited SRU’s offense with a two-run home run in the top half of the second inning to give his team the early advantage. Later on in the second inning, freshman Abraham Mow hit a double out to left field to score sophomore Tyler Merigliano. The Rock’s second inning onslaught would continue with junior Ray Scala reaching first base on an error by IUP’s shortstop, which scored senior Kyle Wise. SRU’s offensive second inning would conclude with senior Christian Porterfield singling to score Mow to give The Rock a 5-0 lead going into the third inning.
The Green and White would strike again, this time in the top of the fourth inning when senior Tyler Walters stole home while IUP’s catcher tried to throw out Porterfield, who successfully stole second. Porterfield would come around to score when junior Joe Campagna reached base on an error by the Crimson Hawk’s centerfielder, thus giving SRU a 7-0 advantage.
IUP’s only threats of the games came in the sixth inning the Crimson Hawk’s Ted DeSanti hit a two-run triple off of SRU ace Alex Pantuso to decrease SRU’s lead to five runs. IUP would strike again in the sixth inning when DeSanti would come around to score off of a single by IUP’s Chris Eisel.
Pantuso pitched 5.2 innings (his fifth win of the season), allowing three runs on six hits while striking out seven before handing the ball off to junior Wyatt Daugherty. Daugherty would close out the game allowing no hits/runs while striking out two in 1.1 innings pitched, thus handing IUP a 7-3 loss.
In game two of the series, The Rock’s offense again struck early, this time in the first inning off a grand slam by Christian Porterfield. Slippery Rock would add two more runs in the first inning off of a single by Tyler Merigliano and a bases-loaded walk from senior Matt Mandes to give The Rock a 6-0 advantage.
Merigliano would single again, this time in the fourth inning, to score Porterfield and Campagna to increase IUP’s defecit to eight runs. IUP wouldn’t go down without a fight as DeSanti would line a single to right field off SRU’s Matt Gordon in the bottom of the fourth inning to score two unearned runs to make the game 8-2.
The Rock would answer back in the top half of the fifth inning with a two-run home run to increase SRU’s lead to eight runs. The home run, Porterfield’s tenth on the season and second of the game, ties him for first place with Mercyhurst’s Daniel Elliot and West Chester’s Nick Ward in the category. The Rock would tally another run in the fifth inning off a single by Fuscardo that scored Campagna, putting the game at 11-2.
The Crimson Hawks would record two more runs in the bottom of the fifth off a two-run single by Cory Wheeler, decreasing the deficit to seven runs. Slippery Rock’s offense couldn’t be kept quiet as they would add two more runs in the sixth inning off a Tyler Walters single. Later on in the sixth, Mandes would score off of a wild pitch, making the score 13-4 in favor of The Rock, thus securing a Green and White victory.
Gordon would finish the second game of the series allowing four runs (three of which were unearned) on nine hits with four strikeouts in a complete game performance. The win was Gordon’s fifth of the season. Messer praised Friday’s trio of pitchers of Pantuso, Gordon, and Daugherty by saying that they “workhorses” on the mound.
“They could have gotten a little more help from their fielders, but IUP also had some very timely hitting,” Messer said.
In game three on Sunday, IUP’s Jeff Allen was able to hold The Rock to just two runs on three hits in six innings pitched. The limited offense SRU did have in game three was a Joe Campagna single in the bottom of the first inning that scored Tyler Walters from third and a Matt Mandes groundout in the home half of the third inning to score Abraham Mow.
SRU’s Chris Anastas limited the Crimson Hawks to just two hits and a walk and had nine strikeouts in a complete game shutout. His performance earned him the ‘Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) West Pitcher of the Week.’
“Unbelievable performance by Anastas,” Messer exclaimed. “We were very close to take him out in the seventh inning when he put two runners on. We were going to let Wyatt take over and slam the door but Chris deserved to have the chance to try and get out of it.”
In the fourth and final game of the weekend series, Abraham Mow continued his impressive rookie campaign with a three-run home run in the bottom of the second to give The Rock the early 3-0 advantage. The home run was Mow’s seventh of the season. The Rock would strike again in the third and sixth innings off of RBI singles from Luca Fuscardo and Joe Campagna, respectively.
IUP wouldn’t go down quietly as they would strike in the third, fourth, and sixth innings, the latter of the three being a two-run home run off of Rock junior Ryan Tapp from IUP’s Nate Dickey to give the Crimson Hawks the lead. After the home run, Tapp would be replaced with Daugherty, would pitch the remainder of the game. Coach Messer said that although Tapp got “hit around” a bit, the coaching staff still has complete confidence in him.
“He walked a couple guys and allowed, at one point, three singles in a row but he hadn’t pitched all week,” Messer said. “He is one of our better pitchers. He really only made one bad pitch, the two-run home run.”
SRU would then go into the home half of the sixth inning down a run. Campagna would again single to right field to score Mow to tie the game but Ray Scale would be out at home trying to score the go-ahead run. Messer said that normally Scala would be able to score on that play but the right fielder made a strong throw home to nab him at the last second.
Daugherty would keep the game tied until the bottom half of the eighth inning when Campagna would single one more final time to score Scala to give The Rock the extra-inning walk-off base hit to successfully sweep IUP.
The four game sweep puts the Green and White at 16-4 in the PSAC West, tying them for first place with Mercyhurst University, and at 23-11 overall.
The Rock will look to continue their winning ways when they host Alderson Broaddus University in a nonconference doubleheader on Wednesday afternoon. The game was originally scheduled for Tuesday afternoon but was postponed due to weather.