IUP baseball traveled to Slippery Rock University Friday afternoon to start its four-game series against its Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) rival.
After losing, 7-1, in Game 1, the Crimson Hawks tried to rally in Game 2, but they fell in that game, as well, 4-3.
To start off the second game, third baseman Dan Sepic (junior, hospitality management) drove in Cory Wheeler (junior, exercise science) on a home run to left field in the sixth to make it a 4-2 ball game.
The Crimson Hawks had their last chance to take the lead in the seventh inning with Matt Eperesi (senior, accounting) leading off with a single and Chris Eisel (freshman, pre-med) getting on base after being hit by a pitch two batters later.
Sophomore Adam Polites (business management) stepped in to pinch run for Eperesi and scored on an RBI single from Nate Dickey (junior, finance), but the Crimson Hawks put only that one run on the board.
Starting on the mound for IUP in Game 2 was Colin Claus (sophomore, health/physical education), who struck out five batters and gave up only four earned runs over five innings.
In Game 1, Nick Kuhn (freshman, psychology) pitched for the Crimson Hawks. Kuhn stood his ground for five innings before a three-run Slippery Rock homer in the sixth inning, which increased The Rock’s lead to 7-1.
On Saturday, IUP hosted Slippery Rock for Games 3 and 4 at Owen Dougherty Field.
This time, the Crimson Hawks swept, winning a close 12-11 Game 3 and getting a 13-8 win in Game 4.
Wheeler and Scott Hess (senior, safety science) impressed in both games, combining for seven hits and 13 RBIs. Wheeler homered twice in Game 3, helping the Crimson Hawks to an early 5-0 lead over The Rock.
His first homer was a solo shot in the third inning, putting the Crimson Hawks on the fast track to a four-run inning.
The second home run by Wheeler was a three-run blast, tying the game up, 7-7.
Junior Christian McClure (criminology) picked up the win for IUP, earning it in relief by tossing the final three innings in Game 3.
In Game 4, Hess’s grand slam to center field got the Crimson Hawks pumped up. IUP had the bases loaded when Hess blasted it over the fence, pushing the lead to 4-1.
Dickey also shined in the four-run sixth inning with an RBI double to center.
He was one of three IUP players to drive in at least three runs in Game 4.
Picking up the win in relief was Ben Hudock (freshmen, software engineering). Before Hudock pitched, left-handed pitcher Dan Roan (junior, sports management) tossed 2.2 innings of scoreless relief while Slippery Rock struggled in the middle innings.
“We battled and battled,” Roan said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be an easy series going into it.
“We were tied for second in the PSAC, and Slippery Rock is a good team through and through. After being down two-games-to-none, it would have been easy to roll over and let them have the series, but we wouldn’t and couldn’t do that.”
Splitting with The Rock puts the Crimson Hawks into a tight PSAC West race. IUP is now 9-7 in the division and part of a three-way tie for third place along with Seton Hill University and Slippery Rock.
California University of Pennsylvania sits in second place at 8-6, while Merychurst University has the lead with a 15-1 record.
Overall, the Crimson Hawks are 13-17 midway through the season.
IUP is back in action Tuesday for a doubleheader at home against Shippensburg University. Start time is set for 1 p.m.