WINTER HAVEN, Fla. – Juniata College baseball played two extra inning games against Pitt-Greensburg Thursday afternoon and won the first 9-8 in eight innings, but dropped the second 4-3 in 10, in the RussMatt Invitational in Winter Haven, Fla.
It looked as if Juniata was going to hand game one over to the Bobcats without contest, but one run in the bottom of the sixth that finally put Juniata up on the board followed by a seven inning seventh put the game in reach for Juniata with a tied 8-8 ballgame.
Juniata blanked Pitt-Greensburg in the top of the eighth thanks to a left field fly out and two routine grounders. Juniata struggled at first to get things cooking in the eighth on offense, but a Derek Heath (Huntingdon, Pa./Huntingdon) hit by pitch got the ball rolling.
With two outs, a clutch Dan Gray (Johnstown, Pa./Richland) single moved Heath over to third. Sophomore Joe Sforza (Pittstown, N.J./Immaculata) forced a second base error that allowed him to safely reach first and for Heath to score the unearned run that the Eagles needed for victory.
Junior Chase Dykstra (Somerset, Pa./Somerset Area) recorded a triple in the win, while freshman Hunter Phillips (Funkstown, Md./South Hagerstown) smacked a double that drove in the first two runs of the Juniata seven run spree in the bottom of the seventh.
D. Gray, freshman Cody Krepps (Tyrone, Pa./Bellwood-Antis), Mario DeYulius (Ebensburg, Pa./Central Cambria) all logged multiple hit games with two singles each, with Krepps and DeYulius having a flawless 2-of-2 performance at the plate. Krepps earned two RBIs off his singles and DeYulius charted one.
Sophomore Ryan Morrison (Lebanon, Pa./Lebanon Catholic) pitched the first 3.1 innings for Juniata and allowed seven hits and five earned runs with five walks and fanning four Pitt-Greensburg batters. Junior Justin Miller (Bellwood, Pa./Bellwood-Antis) stepped in and threw for 1.2 innings where he allowed three hits and three runs.
Junior Andrew Groninger (McAlisterville, Pa./East Juniata) pitched a solid inning for Juniata and blanked the Bobcats across the board. Sophomore Nathan Strom (Ebensburg, Pa./Central Cambria) earned the win with pitching the final two innings. He did not allow any Bobcat hits or runs and walked two batters.
In game one the Eagles took a one run lead in the second but was unable to hold on and the Bobcats managed to tie it up at two apiece. Juniata put one more on the board in the third, and Pitt-Greensburg again tied it in the fifth.
The bats fell silent for both squads until the tenth inning rolled around. A single followed by a walk put the winning run in scoring position for Pitt-Greensburg. A wild pitch allowed both runners to move up, and a Bobcat single brought home the winning run.
Freshman Nicholas Stubbs (Hagerstown, Md./South Hagerstown) launched a triple in the second that scored sophomore Jace Rhoads (Summersville, Pa./Clarion-Limestone), while Ben Mersky (Hershey, Pa./Hershey) and Sforza each logged extra base hits with doubles. Merksy had quite a showing going 3-of-4 from the plate, and Rhoads went .500 in the game with two hits in four at bats.
Senior Will Hoffman (Phoenix, Md./Dulaney) hurled the first six innings for the Eagles and gave up three runs on nine hits while striking out four. DeYulius threw 3.2 innings for Juniata and allowed a single run and two hits while fanning one batter.
Juniata continues play in Winter Haven, Fla. with a game against Saint John Fisher College on Friday, March 9.