Hamilton fuels Rock baseball to strong showing in North Carolina

Published by Karl Ludwig, Date: March 17, 2020
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Connor Hamilton is a grown man. Standing 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, Hamilton is an imposing presence behind the plate in his role as the starting catcher for the Slippery Rock men’s baseball team.

Before the season, Hamilton, a junior transfer from West Virginia University, was given the unenviable task of shouldering the mantle of “being our best player,” according to Slippery Rock head coach Jeff Messer.

After going 0-for-3, with a pair of strikeouts, in his debut for Slippery Rock, Hamilton has gone 12-for-27 (.444) and led the team with three home runs and eight runs batted in. Over the same stretch, Hamilton has drawn five walks to just two strikeouts.

Through eight games, Hamilton has been the driving force behind Slippery Rock’s 6-2 start and was essential in a 3-1 run over the weekend in Cary, North Carolina during the D2 Challenge.

Hamilton has been Slippery Rock’s best player, but he hasn’t been alone.

Through games at the D2 Challenge, Hamilton batted .412 with two home runs, a pair of doubles, six RBI and five runs. Sophomore Jon Kozarian led the team with a .500 batting average, knocked an extra-base hit in every game and drew four walks to zero strikeouts while sophomore Alex Robenholt went 6-for-14 (.429) with a double, a pair of RBI and three runs.

The Slippery Rock bats led the way to an 18-6 win over Molloy College, a 5-1 win over Walsh College (Oh.) and a 9-4 win over Dominican College. The lone blemish came at the hands of the College of Saint Rose, 5-2 loss.

With just a single game on Friday afternoon, a seven-run first inning, highlighted by the first of Hamilton’s two homers on the day, spurred Slippery Rock to an 18-6 victory over Molloy (6-3).

Junior Andrew Shivak took the mound for Slippery Rock, throwing four innings of four-hit baseball — allowing just one run while striking out for Molloy batters.

Slippery Rock unleashed a barrage of run support in the first, second and third innings, scoring 12 runs by the final out of the third.

Hamilton bookended the run with a pair of home runs while junior Abraham Mow (a double) and sophomore Luke Trueman (a home run) supplied runs batted in off of extra-base hits.

Slippery Rock coasted to a largely uncontested 18-6 victory on the back of the explosive first three innings.

Sophomore Corey Burkes and freshman Drew Delaney made their first appearances out of the bullpen this season, with Delaney throwing three innings of one-run baseball to pick up his first save of the season — and his career.

Along with Hamilton, who had a career-high four-hit game, Mow (three hits, three RBI), sophomore Vince Donato (two hits) and freshman Anthony Cinicola (two hits, three RBI) recorded multi-hit games.

The duo of sophomore Andy McClymonds and junior JT Wolke combined to allow just four hits to Walsh (4-4) as Slippery Rock picked up a 5-1 win in the first half of Saturday’s doubleheader.

A sacrifice fly ball scored Walsh an unearned run in the top of the first inning, and that was the last run allowed by McClymonds, who allowed just two hits in the next five innings.

Freshman Koby Bubash and Mow smacked a double and a single, respectively, in the second inning, driving Slippery Rock to four second-inning runs. Hamilton continued his hot streak with an RBI single in the fifth inning, scoring Mow for the fifth and final run of the game.

Wolke entered the game for McClymonds after the sixth inning, pitching three innings of one-hit baseball to pick up his first save of the season.

Rebonholt and Mow produced Slippery Rock’s multi-hit outings while Trueman, Kozarian and Bolbash each collected extra-base hits.

The second half of the doubleheader produced the lone letdown of the weekend, a 5-2 loss at the hands of Saint Rose (5-6) after blowing a fourth inning lead.

Trueman started for Slippery Rock, lasting five innings in the process. Trueman allowed just one earned run on three hits before being pulled for sophomore Christian Seelhorst for the sixth inning.

Robenholt and sophomore Zach Mancz clubbed back-to-back singles to give Slippery Rock a lead in the top of the third inning, and Saint Rose scored off a sac fly for Seelhorst to enter the sixth with a 2-1 lead.

The Rock bats dried up as Seelhorst struggled through 1.2 innings, giving up three runs — two earned — to pick up his first decision of the season, a loss. Junior Derek Boben entered for Seelhorst in the seventh inning, giving up a run over 1.1 innings, as Saint Rose completed its comeback.

For the first time since Opening Day, Slippery Rock suffered a loss, 5-2 to Saint Rose.

Slippery Rock returned to the USA Baseball Training Complex early Sunday morning for the final contest of the D2 Challenge, defeating Dominican 9-4 behind a resurgent performance from sophomore ace Tanner Esposito.

Esposito, who struggled through a rough start on opening day, experienced another game in which he fell into an early hole.

Despite Trueman scoring an early run by drawing a walk in the first inning, Slippery Rock fell behind 3-1 after the fourth inning.

Esposito suffered through a difficult second inning, a pair of walks and an error from Bolbash contributing to the first Dominican run of the game.

After hitting a Dominican batter in the first at-bat of the fourth inning, who later scored off an error from Donato, the Chargers drove in their third run off a single. Trailing 3-1 entering the bottom of the fourth, Slippery Rock’s bats came alive.

A two-run RBI triple from Mow, followed by an RBI double from Kozarian, regained the lead for Slippery Rock, which entered the fifth inning with a 4-3 lead.

Esposito worked a 1-2-3 fifth inning, and Slippery Rock added to its lead with a two-run fifth. Esposito battled to the middle of the seventh inning, giving up four runs — one earned — on just one hit while striking out seven and walking five.

Sophomore Ricky Mineo entered in relief of Esposito, securing him the win with a one-hit performance — with five strikeouts — over 2.1 innings.

Donato was responsible for the final three runs of the game, providing the duo of Esposito and Mineo the run support they lacked against Saint Rose, courtesy an RBI off being hit by a pitch in the sixth inning and a two-run single in the eighth inning.

Mow, Kozarian, Rebonholt and Trueman each provided Slippery Rock with multi-hit days while Hamilton slapped another extra-base hit in the win.

A 9-4 victory over Dominican (1-8) ensured a winning weekend for Slippery Rock, which improved to 6-2.

Karl is a senior sport management major and communication minor entering his second year on The Rocket staff. He will serve as the sports editor after previously serving as the assistant sports editor. During his time with The Rocket, he has covered a majority of sports on campus, and he hopes to cover them all by the time his time with the paper is over. After graduation, he hopes to work in the sports writing field.

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