Once again, pitcher Chris Vallimont stepped up when his fellow Lakers needed him the most. Coming off a split with Slippery Rock that allowed them to draw even with the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association’s No. 9 ranked Lakers at the top of the PSAC West, the Lakers’ junior ace Vallimont took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on April 20, keeping the Lakers atop the division.
Vallimont’s great performance sparked a doubleheader sweep of the Clarion University Golden Eagles at the Mercyhurst Baseball Field before the offense came alive in the nightcap. Totals for the Lakers were 9-3 and 6-0.
“I think having a lot of guys contribute to playing is what has brought our team together,” said Dan Elliot of the Lakers. “Our team is filled with guys who can step in or step up and play when we need them to. In past years there usually would be a set lineup and the same guy would play everyday, but this year we have a lot of younger guys stepping up and making big impacts.”
The following day in Butler, the Lakers made another showing against the Golden Eagles, sweeping the doubleheader 5-3 and 15-3 to top off a four-win weekend. Vallimont, now 6-2 on the season despite an uncharacteristic 2.33 ERA, turned in his fifth straight start with double-digit strikeouts. Vallimont began by facing two hitters over the minimum ERA for his first three innings, striking out the side in the third and only walking the Golden Eagles’ Mike Connell and Max Mari in the second before Drew Delsignore caught Connell attempting to swipe second.
A called third strike against the Golden Eagles’ Cole Shaffer ended the second, beginning a run of five straight and six of seven outs recorded on strikes. Meanwhile, the Lakers put up three in the first off Golden Eagle pitcher Chance Miranda (0-5, 6.89) as D. Elliott singled home Jimmy Standohar and Alex O’Donnell to increase the Laker tally. Matt Schneider then scored Delsignore on a 5-3 sacrifice for the Lakers. Miranda settled down to strand two in the second and fourth and go in-order in the third, but was lifted in the fifth on six strikeouts, two earned, four hits, and two walks.
Delsignore rolled out the welcome mat for the Golden Eagles’ Kyle Thompson with a walk, leading off the home fifth and advancing to third on a throwing error by third baseman Mari. This allowed J. Elliott to reach for the Lakers before Schneider doubled to left to drive in Delsignore. Michael Montalbano followed with a single of his own to score the other two runners.
After the Lakers’ Zach Mitchell was hit and the runners advanced on a wild pitch, teammate Collin Fantaskey struck out with the bases loaded with Jack Elliott on first. However, this came before Standohar scored Montalbano on a 6-4 fielder’s choice and Mitchell scoring on a wild pitch, capping off a five-run frame from the hosting Lakers. Dan Elliot homered in the sixth to provide another insurance run for Vallimont, who retired the order in the fifth and worked around a throwing error by O’Donnell in the sixth to take a 12-strikeout no-hitter into the seventh.
After striking out the Golden Eagles’ pinch-hitter Matt Kamenicky and after walking Garett Goslaw, Shaffer broke up the feat with a dribbling single that escaped both O’Donnell and J. Elliott.
Goslaw scored afterward on a wild pitch and Dillon Wolbert drove in two on a single to chase Vallimont after another strikeout, his 13th of the afternoon. Ryan Smerkar then allowed a single to Nick Fugh that failed to advance Wolbert from second and struck out Chandler Palyas to lock down the victory.
Game two was even more clear-cut, with the Lakers successfully holding off any and all scoring attempts by the Golden Eagles. While it took five innings to get there, the Lakers got two runs off of J. Elliot and Parker Shanon. One inning later and the Lakers had properly sealed the deal against the Golden Eagles. O’Donnell was the first to get a tally in the inning, followed teammates Schneider and D. Elliot on the same play and J. Elliot and Schneider to close out the game in the sixth.
On Saturday, the Lakers traveled down to Butler, for another doubleheader against Clarion. The Lakers scored early in the first inning on an RBI single from D. Elliott. For the only time in the four game series, Clarion took the lead in the second inning. However, D. Elliott homered for a second time this weekend, tying the game up at two in the third inning. The Lakers pulled ahead with another run in the fourth and two more in the seventh. Clarion could not come back, only scoring one more run in the seventh.
Game two of the day looked to be another close one, with a tie game going into the fifth inning. Mercyhurst had scored one run in the second and Clarion answered with one of their own in the fourth. In the fifth inning, Mercyhurst scored a massive eight runs. D. Elliott started the rally off with a single and 2 more RBIs while the bases were loaded. Next, right fielder Drew Delsignore triples, sending in two more and also scoring himself on an error made by the Clarion second baseman. O’Donnell and Schneider drove in the last two runs of the inning. The scoring continued as the Lakers earned two runs in the sixth and four in the seventh. With his showing this weekend, Elliott has a team high of 45 RBIs, which lands him second in the PSAC.
The Lakers will be celebrating senior day on April 28 at 1 p.m. against crosstown rival Gannon. After hosting the Golden Knights, the Lakers will travel to Gannon on April 29 at 1 p.m. to finish off the series.
Sports editor Bernard Garwig and News editor Caitlyn Lear also contributed to this report