HARRISONBURG, Va. – Penn State Altoona baseball got its 2019 season underway on Friday afternoon, when the Lions suffered a doubleheader sweep at the hands of Eastern Mennonite University by scores of 7-6 and 8-4.
Penn State Altoona (0-2) kicked off the rust against an Eastern Mennonite (3-2) team that entered the day with three regular season games already under its belt. While the Lions showed some positive signs at the plate, the team knows that there is much room for improvement.
"Obviously, we would have liked to come out with a different outcome, but it was nice to finally get out from indoors and see the grass and dirt for the first time in months," said Penn State Altoona head coach RJ Barnard. "We had some guys swing it real well, and we are still very optimistic that we are going to have a successful season."
Game One: EMU 7, Penn State Altoona 6
Penn State Altoona appeared to have the season-opening win within is grasp, as the Lions held a 6-4 lead through five-and-a-half innings. But Eastern Mennonite rallied to post a three-run bottom of the sixth inning, coming from behind to prevail in a back-and-forth game.
Chase Clouser (Dublin, OH/Dublin Jerome) led the way for Penn State Altoona at the plate, going 2-for-4 with a grand slam and two runs scored. Hunter Breon (Boiling Springs, PA/Boiling Springs) went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored, and Peter Jacobs (Dix Hills, NY/Half Hollow Hills West) was 2-for-3 with two runs batted in, one walk, and one stolen base. Austin Anderson (Macungie, PA/Emmaus) was 1-for-2 with a walk and a run scored.
Austin Miller (Orbisonia, PA/Southern Huntingdon) made his first collegiate start on the mound, pitching 4 1/3 innings and surrendering four hits, four runs, and one walk while striking out a pair and taking the no-decision. Tyler Manger (Lindenhurst, NY/Lindenhurst) was saddled with the loss, pitching 1 1/3 innings and allowing one earned run. Sawyer Kline (Bellwood, PA/Bellwood-Antis) tossed a scoreless 1/3 inning.
Penn State Altoona scored early, putting two runs on the board in the top of the first inning. After singles from Breon and Clouser set the table, Jacobs' two-run double to left-center put the Lions up 2-0.
Eastern Mennonite got one run back in the bottom of the third when Corey Willis led off with a triple and scored on John Judy's groundout. The Royals used a leadoff triple to spark a rally in the fifth, when Jaylon Lee started the inning with a triple and scored on Billy Quinn's sacrifice bunt. The next batter, Jacob Merica, drove two more runs in with his double that put Eastern Mennonite up 4-2.
The Lions jumped ahead in the top of the sixth inning, when Clouser's two-out grand slam to deep right-center put Penn State Altoona ahead 6-4.
But Eastern Mennonite responded by taking the lead back in the bottom half of the inning. Lee's two-run homer to left-center tied the score 6-6, and Merica's two-out RBI base hit to center gave the Royals a 7-6 advantage.
Game Two: EMU 8, Penn State Altoona 4
Eastern Mennonite completed the doubleheader sweep by plating eight runs on 13 hits in game two of the twin billing.
Clouser had another strong game at the plate for Penn State Altoona, going 2-for-3 with a run scored. Anderson, Breon, Jacobs, and Brandyn Schuchart (York, PA/Spring Grove) collected one hit apiece for the Lions.
Aaron Sharp (Freeburg, PA/Midd-West) got the nod on the mound in game two, pitching 3 2/3 innings and surrendering five runs to take the loss. Dylan Bates (Towanda, PA/Towanda) entered in relief, tossing 1 1/3 innings and yielding a pair of runs. Jaryd Palmer (Northumberland, PA/Shikellamy) made his first collegiate appearance on the mound, pitching one inning and giving up one run.
Eastern Mennonite put three runs on the board in the bottom of the first inning. An outfield errors allowed two Royals to score, and Ray Tricarico's RBI hit to right made it 3-0.
Penn State Altoona knotted things up when they put together a three-run top of the third. Breon's RBI base hit up the middle scored the Lions' first run of the game. Breon later scored on an outfield error, and Jacobs' RBI single brought home the tying run, making it 3-3.
The Royals reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the third on Lee's RBI single to left. Eastern Mennonite went on to score four runs over the next three innings, expanding its lead to 8-3.
Penn State Altoona got its fourth run of the game in the top of the seventh, when Schuchart led off the frame with a base hit to left and later came around to score on an error.
Lions baseball's next games will come in Florida, as the team will make its annual trek to compete in the RussMatt Central Florida Invitaitonal. Penn State Altoona's first games of the competition are Saturday, March 2, when the team will face off in a doubleheader against Coe College starting at 9:45 a.m. at Lake Myrtle Park in Auburndale.