Winners of three straight and off to a 17-2 start this season, manager Joe Spano’s baseball team appears poised to pick up where it left off last year after a school-record 43 wins. The Lakers are now No. 6 in the country and atop the DII Baseball poll.A test for the Lakers is a split four-game series with Slippery Rock (15-6) at home this weekend.
The Lakers have won eight of nine since March 21. They have scored 93 runs in that span, including a marvelous opener to a doubleheader against Indiana (6-14, 3-5) on March 25. With the game being moved to Erie at the last minute, the Lakers took advantage of playing as a road team at home and erupted for 16 runs in the first two innings en route to even the school record of a 25-3, first set on March 1, 1999.
The Lakers drove in three runs with a double, two singles, two walks and an error before Dan Popio sent a grand slam over the fence for his first home run of the season. Chris González, Daniel Elliott, and Popio each contributed a double of their own—the last two run-producing—before Cameron Balego took Mike Klingensmith, who was charged with 10 earned runs in just an inning, plus five second-inning batters, over the center-field wall for a three-run homer to put a temporary halt to the Lakers’ scoring.
The Lakers’ other nine runs came via two in the third and sixth and one in the seventh.
The second game was more of the same, as the host Hawks allowed two each in the second, third, and fourth en route to their 10th straight loss. This time, there wasn’t a single big blow, but Elliott did take Brian Albert deep in the third for his second homer of the campaign.
Junior Nolan Freeman (2-0) allowed just one hit and struck out six in four innings of work.
The Lakers then made up the Notre Dame cancellation three days later and again took advantage of the location switch before putting up seven in the first, again heading towards a 17-1 route of the Falcons (4-18). Jimmy Latona had a leadoff homer and Balego followed that up two batters later with a two-run shot.
Latona would come up later with the bases loaded and two outs and drove in two with a single to center. Balego tagged him with a three-run shot in the second and two more earned runs. The run would eventually hit 17-0 in the eighth as Sabatino diNardo finished up a 5 RBI day after Kevin Guzik allowed Zach Hayes to score on a wild pitch.
Meanwhile, on April 1, Seton Hill’s Perry DellaValle (1-0), this week’s PSAC Pitcher of the Week, needed just two hours and 14 minutes to out-duel Matt Minnick (3-1) as the Griffins pulled a 2-0 upset in the first game of the twin bill.
A leadoff double from Latona was the only roadblock preventing a no-hitter as DellaValle walked four and struck out 14 as he faced just five over the minimum.
The Lakers rebounded nicely and outscored the Griffins 24-7 over the final three games, as Drew Delsignore took Joe Shaffer deep in the second game, before Chris Vallimont (4-1) needed just two hours and five minutes to strike out 12 Griffins in the first game on April 2.
A five run fourth led to the 9-0 win, as Delsignore homered for the second straight game. The nightcap was an 11-7 Laker win, where five runs in the fourth and home runs from Latona and Balego did it this time for Matthew Keating (1-0) In four innings of work.