The Slippery Rock University baseball team began conference play over the weekend, dropping a four-game series to Gannon University, losing by scores of 6-11, 9-15, 3-6 and 2-7, respectively.
Rock head coach Jeff Messer said there are concerns following a four-game sweep, but that he is not overly worried.
“Obviously we wanted to at least split a four-game series,” Messer said. “We’ve had some issues so far this season with pitching, especially with our top pitcher going down with an injury. We had to shake up our plans with who was going to pitch when.”
Senior Chris Anastas has been out with an injury for the past couple of weeks, Messer said, and that it is likely that he will return for the weekend series against Seton Hill University.
In Saturday’s matchups, The Rock had the offense, combining for 15 runs in both games, but was not able to keep the Gannon batters off base. Senior Frankie Jezioro went three for eight at the plate, with three RBIs and a home run on Saturday.
The Rock returned home Sunday, hoping to bounce back from Saturday.
To try and give the team a chance to utilize a top pitcher, Messer and pitching coach Sean Holliday decided to use senior closer Wyatt Daugherty in a starting role for game three of the series.
“Wyatt is undoubtedly one of the best pitchers on the team,” Messer said. “We normally use him to slam the door late in the game but we haven’t been playing with a lead as of late. We needed to get him in the game simply because he is our top pitcher.”
Daugherty was a force for The Rock on the mound, pitching 5.2 innings, allowing five hits and striking out eight in the process, before going down with an undisclosed injury in the fifth inning. Freshman Luke Truman took over on the mound, allowing two runs (one earned) on one hit in 1.1 innings pitched.
Offensively, The Rock was led once again by Jezioro, going two for four with two hits that included a late-game home run. Messer highlighted Jezioro’s performances as one of the “glowing” aspects of the season so far.
“We haven’t been winning as much to the start the season but [Frankie] is doing an amazing job,” Messer said. “Of the four years he has been here, he is having the best approach at the plate this season. You can just tell he is having fun out there.”
Game four of the weekend series saw The Rock’s woes continue. Freshman Ricky Mineo started on the mound but failed to make it out of the first inning, surrendering four runs (two earned) on two hits. Mineo’s apparent achilles heel on Sunday was the four walks he allowed. Messer said Gannon did a good job at being patient at the plate against the freshmen pitcher. Senior Ryan Tapp took over on the mound to try and cool off the Gannon offense. He would go on to pitch 5.1 innings, surrendering three runs on six hits and struck out three in the process.
Messer praised Tapp’s performance on the mound.
“He did a good job coming in during the first inning, and gave us a strong outing,” Messer said. “He came in a lot earlier than we anticipated but I think he did a solid job for us and it is really a step forward for him this season.”
Game four saw no player on The Rock offense get more than one hit at the plate. Jezioro, Trueman, senior Joe Campagna, sophomore Abraham Mow and redshirt freshman Jon Kozarian allotted for the five hits in game four.
“I know our offense will improve” Messer said. “We’ve done well so far this season but Gannon’s pitching stopped us today. I am not too worried going forward but I do think we need to improve our situational hitting, especially because we don’t have the power in the lineup that we had last year.”
The Rock will hope to get back into the win column over the weekend as they are set to begin a four-game series against Seton Hill University, two-time defending Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) champion. Games one and two are scheduled for Friday at 1 and 3 p.m. at Jack Critchfield Park in Slippery Rock while games three and four are set for 1 and 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Seton Hill University baseball complex in Greensburg, Pa.