The weather proved to be no issue for Lakers pitcher Chris Vallimont, regarded by many as the ace of coach Joe Spano’s staff. And although pesky Seton Hill Griffins pitcher Perry DellaValle snaked in a 1-6 win, the Lakers were triumphant in three of the four contests, winning 1-0, 10-7 and 5-4.
The course of the season for both clubs provided for a natural matchup of the two best staffs in the West, with the Lakers (19-5, 10-2) holding a formidable edge despite having thrown 17 1/3 fewer innings as a combined team. “My fastball was working for me, curveball,” said Vallimont. “Off beats were starting to get more sharp towards the end of the game, and I guess I’m kind of used to the weather. I guess I just want to build off my last couple starts.”
Vallimont (6-1, 1.26) went straight to work on the Griffins (10-16, 5-7), who are at the bottom of the PSAC in average and third-worst in slugging. Patrick Monteverde (1-2, 3.24) responded in the bottom of the frame, recording the first two outs for the Griffins before allowing Drew Delsignore to go on a throwing error by Griffin shortstop Tyler Sullivan and an ensuing blow on Laker Dan Elliott’s hand. Matt Schneider walked to load the bases, but Jack Elliott was upended looking to end the threat.
This sparked a streak of seven of the next nine Lakers failing to hit. Only Adam Bankovich and Jared Kapturasky got off home plate with a pair of walks. The Griffins’ Mark Colella had ripped a double down the left-field line in the top of that inning for the first hit of the afternoon but was promptly retired on a 1-6 choice. After a double-steal from the Griffins’ Sullivan and Jordan Fiedor, Bankovich struck out, sparking a run of 10 of the next 12 retired Griffins to suffer a third strike. The Lakers broke the stalemate in the fourth with their first of only two hits in the contest, with J. Elliott circumventing from Monteverde with a walk before advancing on a wild pitch.
This allowed Kapturasky to drive in the game’s only run on a single to left, advancing to second on the throw for the Lakers. The lone run of the game would decide the contest for the Lakers.
Jimmy Standohar singled to center for the Lakers to lead off the fifth before Alex O’Donnell walked to end Monteverde’s day after seven strikeouts and five walks in four-plus innings of work.
Delsignore and was unable to overcome a wild pitch on salutation from the Griffins’ Neal McDermott, striking out in the dirt to spark a 1-3-1 double that caught a leading Standohar at the plate.
McDermott stranded two more scoring-position baserunners in the sixth, walking Kapturasky and J. Elliott in alternation before catching Laker Collin Fantaskey looking for the last of eight baserunners stranded by Griffin pitching.
Colella singled with one out in the seventh for his second hit of the day, but Fantaskey went 9-5 and nailed pinch-runner Andrew Chuba at third base for the second out. Fiedor stole second before Sullivan chased Vallimont on 2-1, but Adam Jeannette finished the walk and retired Sullivan 6-4 to end the game.
Game two on Friday then saw DellaValle open the contest for the Griffins by stranding a full basepath of Lakers in the first inning. O’Donnell and Delsignore drew walks after Standohar struck out.
But D. Elliott missed the 0-2 offering, and after Schneider reached on an infield hit to Sullivan, DellaValle induced D. Elliott to end the threat. Meanwhile, Laker Russell Lamovec (2-2, 2.97) opened the contest by striking out Garret Vrbanic after hitting the Griffins’ Chris Law on the third pitch of the game and inducing the Griffins’ Colton Carney around the horn to wrap up a streak of six consecutive retired batters.
But DellaValle returned the favor in the home second, catching Zach Mitchell, Kapturasky and Fantaskey swinging, then stranding the third on a swinging strikeout of J. Elliott after a walk and two singles. The Griffins carried this momentum into the fourth, as Fiedor worked the count full and doubled to right-center on the seventh pitch of the at-bat to drive in Colella, who had doubled himself after Carney went 6-3 to open the frame. It would be the only support DellaValle would need, retiring another side and holding the hosts’ scoreline empty in the fifth. The Lakers’ Ryan Smerkar greeted Colella with a swinging strikeout to open the sixth, but opposite-field singles from Fiedor and Tom McCarthy filled the corners for the Griffins.
With MP Buckley pinch-hitting for Braendel, Smerkar uncorked a wild pitch that skipped under the glove of Delsignore and to the backstop, allowing Fiedor to score. Buckley then walked, restoring the full corners after McCarthy’s advance to third. But Smerkar repeated the feat with Sullivan batting to score McCarthy. The Griffins’ rally only ended when Delsignore caught Sullivan with too far a lead at first after the Lakers’ Nicholas McRandal went for the Griffins’ Daniel Wukich on a called third strike. Sullivan got back to first safely, but D. Elliott relayed back to the plate to catch Buckley attempting to score on the throw to first. But the damage had been done, which DellaValle confirmed by finishing the day with 11 strikeouts in six innings on just three hits and three walks to maintain an unblemished career Earned Run Average against the Lakers.
“This series is always a brutal one,” said DellaValle. “I’m in the zone more than I ever have been every time I come here. It’s just great to get the win today there. I just trust my stuff. I really didn’t have too many pitches working for me today, Once I got back out there, second, third inning, I just worked on that and it worked out for me.”
Vrbanic then greeted Tyler Passmore with another wild pitch with one out in the seventh, scoring on a single and advancing to second on a fielding error. After Colella flew to left, Fiedor worked a five-pitch walk and advanced on another wild pitch, the sixth of the contest allowed by Laker pitching. McCarthy then hit a grounder to O’Donnell, but an errant throw to D. Elliott allowed Fiedor and Carney to score the final runs for the Griffins. The end tally was 6-1, Griffins.
However, Saturday was a different story. The Lakers produced two wins out of the doubleheader, clipping the Griffins’ wings 10-7 and 5-4. Next contest is another doubleheader series against Slippery Rock. The Lakers are away for the April 13 game, but will host their opponents on April 14 for a 1 p.m. start.