HUNTINGDON, Pa. – Juniata College juniors Ben Mersky (Hershey, Pa./Hershey) and Cole Walters (Mount Union, Pa./Mount Union) combined for five hits and five runs batted in to lead the Eagles to a 7-4 win over the University of Pitt-Bradford, in game one of the teams' doubleheader Thursday at Langdon-Goodale Field.
Juniata took an early 2-0 lead in game two of the twinbill, but a six-run uprising in the fourth propelled Pitt-Bradford to a 6-4 win, leading to a split of the non-conference doubleheader.
In game one, Mersky and Walters combined to give Juniata (7-8) a one-run lead in the first, when Mersky reached on a leadoff single and scored on Walters' base hit left field.
Pitt-Bradford (4-10) briefly took the lead with three runs in the top of the third, keyed by Derek Smith's two-run double into the gap in right-center, scoring David Kunkle and Dakota Roller.
The Eagles responded with three of their own in the bottom of the frame, with Mersky again leading off the inning with a base hit back to the pitcher. Brad Medellin (Lewisberry, Pa./Red Land) reached on a throwing error by Panther pitcher Derek Meyer, and Walters plated both runners with a single through the left side. Derek Heath (Huntingdon, Pa./Huntingdon Area) later drove in Walters with a single into center field.
Juniata added two more runs in the fourth, after Chase Dykstra (Somerset, Pa./Somerset Area) led off with a double to left and scored on Mersky's triple to straightaway center. Mersky later crossed on Medellin's ground-out to short.
The Eagles tacked on an insurance run in the fifth through a bases loaded walk, while Pitt-Bradford plated its fourth run in the top of the sixth on Louie Jones' RBI double to left-center.
Eagle starter Joe Sforza (Pittstown, N.J./Immaculata) scattered four hits and allowed three runs with two strikeouts over three complete innings of work on the designated "staff day," and was credited with the win. Josh Green (Hagerstown, Md./Clear Springs) came on in the fourth and allowed one run on three hits over his three innings of relief, while Justin Miller (Bellwood, Pa./Bellwood-Antis) and Medellin split the seventh inning.
Meyer lasted into the fourth inning in the start for Pitt-Bradford, and yielded five runs, four earned, on eight hits in the loss.
Mersky went 3-for-3 at the plate in game one with three runs scored and two runs batted in. Walters was 2-for-4 and finished with three RBI. Heath and Jace Rhoads (Summerville, Pa./Clarion-Limestone) each finished with a pair of hits.
Juniata looked like it might make a sweep of Pitt-Bradford, posting two runs in the first inning of game two on a grounder by Walters, scoring Mersky, and Sforza's sacrifice fly to right field that plated Medellin.
However Pitt-Bradford rallied for six runs in the top of the fourth on three hits, an error, four walks, and two wild pitches, as Juniata struggled to find outs.
Sam Gardner opened the Panther fourth with a single through the left side, eventually scoring on a fielder's choice grounder to second after back-to-back walks and a wild pitch. Another walk left the bases juiced for Pitt-Bradford, and Smith's single to right field coupled with a throwing error allowed two more runs to cross. Another wild pitch produced the Panthers' fourth run of the inning, and Ethan Showers' single off the end of pitcher Nate Burkey's (Alexandria, Pa./Juniata Valley) glove enabled two more Panther runs to go up on the scoreboard.
Juniata rallied for a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth, with Hunter Phillips (Funkstown, Md./South Hagerstown) drawing a bases loaded walk and Mersky scoring Thomas Eck (Columbia, Pa./Lancaster Catholic) with a sacrifice fly to center.
Mario DeYulius (Ebensburg, Pa./Central Cambria) got the start for the Eagles and pitched the first two innings, before Andrew Groninger (McAlisterville, Pa./East Juniata) came on in the third inning. Groninger was tagged with four of Pitt-Bradford's six runs in the fourth inning and was charged with the loss, and was lifted in favor of Burkey with one out in the fourth.
Pitt-Bradford starter Ross Kauffman allowed four runs on four hits and four walks, but did not last the required four innings to get credit for the win. Taylor English came on in relief of Kauffman with one out in the fourth and pitched the remaining three-and-two-thirds innings for the Panthers, fanning three Eagles while allowing just two hits to pick up the win.
Mersky went 2-for-3 at the plate in game two on his way to a 5-for-6 day, and had a run and an RBI. Cody Krepps (Tyrone, Pa./Bellwood-Antis) also had a pair of hits.
Juniata returns to the diamond on Sunday, March 25, when it faces Moravian College in a Landmark Conference doubleheader scheduled to start at 1:00 p.m. That twinbill had been scheduled for Saturday, but has been postponed due to the threat of inclement weather. The third game of the series will be played Monday, March 26, at 4:00 p.m. at Langdon-Goodale Field.