AUBURNDALE, Fla. – Penn State Altoona baseball faced a pair of strong non-conference opponents on Friday in the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational, as the Lions lost 9-3 to the Rochester Institute of Technology and 4-0 to #21 Wheaton College at Lake Myrtle Park.
"We are getting closer to where we need to be. Two more losses today to national powers RIT and Wheaton, but we were able to compete in both games," said Penn State Altoona head coach RJ Barnard. "Hopefully, we can knock off 2017 NEAC regular season champion Penn State Abington and end our Florida trip on a high note."
Penn State Altoona's (2-8) bullpen was a highlight for the team, as the Lions' relief pitchers combined to throw 8 1/3 scoreless innings in Friday's games, allowing only two hits and two walks to go along with nine strikeouts.
In the Lions' first game of the day against RIT (1-0), Penn State Altoona was again plagued by one bad inning. The Tigers put six runs on the board in the third inning, which proved to be the difference in a six-run decision.
Dylan Bates (Towanda, PA/Towanda) started on the mound for the Lions and pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing six earned runs and striking out a season-high 10 batters while being handed the loss.
Oliver Dailey (Boalsburg, PA/State College) pitched 1 2/3 innings in relief, striking out one batter. Aaron Smith (Duncansville, PA/Hollidaysburg) added two innings, giving up one hit while striking out a pair.
Peter Jacobs (Dix Hills, NY/Half Hollow Hills West) went 3-for-4 at the plate for Penn State Altoona, finishing with two doubles, one run batted in, and one run scored. Bates batted 2-for-4 with a run scored.
RIT scored the game's first run in the top of the first inning on Dom Scialabba's RBI double to left. The Tigers made it 2-0 in the second on another RBI double, this coming off the bat of Daniel Zeglen.
RIT broke the game open with a six-run third inning, grabbing a commanding 8-0 lead.
Penn State Altoona got on the board in the bottom of the third when Hunter Breon's (Boiling Springs, PA/Boiling Springs) RBI single to left-center made it 8-1.
The Tigers scored a run on a wild pitch in the top of the sixth, extending their lead to 9-1.
Penn State Altoona answered that run in the bottom half of the sixth on Jacobs' RBI double to left-center, and the Lions third run of the game came in the ninth on a Chase Clouser (Dublin, OH/Dublin Jerome) pinch-hit RBI single up the middle.
In game two, Penn State Altoona allowed some early runs to nationally-ranked Wheaton (3-0) before shutting them down the rest of the game. But the Lions were unable to muster the offense to overcome a four-run deficit.
Aaron Sharp (Freeburg, PA/Midd-West) got the start on the mound and took the loss, going 3 1/3 innings before exiting the game due to injury. He struck out two batters while allowing three earned runs.
As in the first game, Penn State Altoona's bullpen closed the door on the opposition the rest of the way after the starter left the game. Sawyer Kline (Bellwood, PA/Bellwood-Antis) tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings, recording four strikeouts and yielding just one hit. Zane Leister (Middleburg, PA/Midd-West) tossed one inning with one walk and one strikeout, and Bradley Lau (Reston, VA/Freedom) also pitched one inning with a walk and a strikeout.
Wheaton grabbed a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on Bryant Salkind's RBI single through the left side and Jared Sharkey's two-run double to left-center. They tacked on a run in the second inning, when Nick Raposo's RBI single through the left side made it 4-0.
Wheaton was able to make that score stand up, holding on to its 4-0 advantage throughout the rest of the game.
Penn State Altoona baseball wraps up its Florida trip in the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational tomorrow, Saturday, March 10, when it goes up against Penn State Abington at 9:30 a.m. at Lake Myrtle Park.