Having gone 5-5 in their last 10 games to move their record to 9-10 overall, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Crimson Hawks baseball team appears to have gotten back on track while achieving a big milestone for their head coach.
The Crimson Hawks claimed victory in three out of four games against Slippery Rock in the first weekend of Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play Saturday and Sunday.
Austin Mock (junior, exercise science) posted a .500 batting average during the Slippery Rock series, serving as the team’s designated hitter. After a big weekend, Mock improved his season average to .294, good for third on the team.
He also closed out the third game on the mound, earning his fourth save of the season.
“My first couple years we got off to a slow start,” Mock said. “So it’s nice to start off good – especially against a team like Slippery Rock.”
Slippery Rock has the best team batting average (.319) in the PSAC West. They were picked by coaches to finish third in the PSAC West preseason poll, receiving three of eight first-place votes. IUP was ranked sixth in that poll.
The Crimson Hawks relied on their pitching staff to slow down Slippery Rock’s surging offense, as they have all year.
So far this season, Dylan Tice (junior, exercise science) and Chris Calliari (freshmen, exercise science) are the only two IUP hitters that have a batting average over .300.
The team had six players above that notch at the end of last season.
“Pitching and defense is how you win games in the end,” said Tice, who leads the team and is fifth in the PSAC West with a .419 batting average. “Obviously you can lose games by not hitting, but you only need one or two big hits when you’ve been pitching and playing defense as well as we have.”
Over the weekend manager Jeff Ditch became the first IUP baseball coach to ever surpass the 200-win mark.
“The best thing about winning 200 is that we went right to 201 that same day,” said Ditch, who’s in his ninth season as coach of the team.
“It’s a fun rallying point to remember all the good players we’ve had here, and it’s a time to reflect on the past and the alumni. Those are the things that mean the most to me.”
The Crimson Hawks lost to Seton Hill University, who just transferred into the PSAC from the West Virginia Inter Collegiate Athletic Conference this year, in both Thursday games and continue the series Sunday in Greensburg at 1 and 3:30 p.m.
Seton Hill was chosen as the No. 1 team in the conference in the preseason coach’s poll, but IUP is currently tied with Seton Hill and Mercyhurst atop the PSAC West standings.
“I’m sure their ranking is something that all the teams in the PSAC eyeballed for an extra second, so when we’re out there playing them, it’s just a little extra motivation,” Tice said.