The Shippensburg University Raiders lost three out of four critical games against Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) rival East Stroudsburg University this past weekend.
The Raiders (22-21, 11-13 PSAC) began the four-game series at Fairchild Field in Shippensburg on Military Appreciation Day. The day began with an excellent pitcher’s duel between SU’s Gabe Mosser and East Stroudsburg’s Connor Johnson. Mosser had an impressive game, pitching a complete game while striking out nine Warriors.
However, a two-run home run given up to redshirt junior Mike Sulcoski in the sixth inning doomed the Raiders in their 2-0 loss to open the series. SU was hitting the ball well in the opener, but the ball was just not finding any grass. East Stroudsburg’s (21-20, 10-14 PSAC) Johnson threw a complete game despite striking out just three Raiders.
Zack Sims picked up the ball for SU in the second half of Friday’s doubleheader. Sims, who has been having a career season, continued to dazzle the home crowd as he tossed a complete-game shutout to help the team recover from its 2-0 loss earlier in the afternoon.
In addition to another dominant performance on the mound, the Raiders’ bats exploded for 10 runs to help Sims to his PSAC-leading eighth win of the season. Leading the charge at the plate for SU was junior Drew Bene. Bene led the team in hits and RBIs with three of each in the team’s 10-0 win over East Stroudsburg. Junior Cash Gladfelter also added two hits and two RBIs in the winning effort.
Sims has become one of the PSAC’s top pitchers this season by taking a massive leap in strikeouts and hits allowed. Last season, Sims pitched 66 2/3 innings, gave up 68 hits and struck out 55 batters. With only a couple of starts remaining this season, Sims has pitched 67 innings. He has improved his strikeouts from 55 in 2017 to 78 thus far in 2018. He has also taken a leap in hits allowed, going from 68 hits allowed in 2017 to only 50 hits allowed in 2018.
Taking a look specifically at the amount of extra-base hits Sims allows, he has made significant leaps in both overall hits allowed as well as the quality of hits that he is giving up. In 18 appearances and 10 starts in 2017, Sims gave up nine home runs and 17 doubles. In 2018, Sims has limited opposing hitters to only three home runs and five doubles. The lack of good contact that Sims is giving up this season, combined with his improvements in strikeouts, has a direct correlation as to why he has become, arguably, Shippensburg’s top pitcher this season. The redshirt junior is 8-3 with a 2.55 ERA through 14 appearances and 10 starts this season.
SU headed into the second half of the four-game series against the Warriors on Saturday needing to win to keep pace in the PSAC playoff race. However, the bats went cold and they lost both games on Saturday by a combined score of 11-2.
Gladfelter continued his momentum from Friday’s 10-0 win by leading off the third game of the series with a home run, his third of the season. However, that proved to be the lone bright spot of the game for the Raiders, who dropped the game, 4-1. Senior Andy Crum received his fourth loss of the season, making it through 5 1/3 innings while giving up four runs (three earned) on six hits while walking three and striking out seven.
In the final game of the four-game series against East Stroudsburg, the Raiders once again scored first.
Senior Nick Spangler hit an RBI single in the third inning to open up the scoring. However, junior Michael Hope, who was making his second straight start, was not able to hold the lead. He gave up the lead later in the third inning by allowing a three-run homer to redshirt junior Christian Rishel. SU was not able to produce at the plate, resulting in a 7-1 loss to end the weekend series with East Stroudsburg.
Losing three out of four games against East Stroudsburg this past weekend definitely hurt SU in the standings, as the Raiders dropped from third place.
SU currently sits in a tie for fifth place in the PSAC, with that coveted fourth and final playoff spot in the PSAC Eastern Division still within their reach. Kutztown University (18-17, 12-11 PSAC) currently sits in fourth place in the Eastern Division, and they hold a four game lead on the Raiders. However, SU has a four-game series with Kutztown next weekend that could prove vital in clearing up the crowded Eastern Division playoff picture.
The Raiders return to action against the Atlantic Region’s No. 5 ranked Shepherd University for a single nine-inning game today at 3 p.m. at Shepherd’s Fairfax Field.