Coming into Saturday’s doubleheader, the Shippensburg University baseball team was already riding high after claiming two victories over Lock Haven University Friday.
On Saturday, the Raiders decided that stopping at two was not an option. That included graduate student JuJu Cason, who launched a walk off two-run home run over the right field fence in the bottom of the ninth, propelling the Raiders to the 4-3 Game 3 win. The win would eventually set up SU for the four-game weekend sweep, vaulting the Raiders back to the .500 mark at 7-7.
Cason’s first walk off in an SU uniform was just the cherry on top to a handful of impressive weekend performances from his teammates. In Game 2, redshirt-sophomore Kiernan Higgins took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning. And you cannot leave out junior Chase Zurawski’s barrage of hitting, finishing his weekend at a 6-for-13 line with seven RBIs and five runs.
In total, SU piled on a 27-11 scoring margin over the Bald Eagles (2-10, 2-10 PSAC East), earning 6-5, 10-0, 4-3, and 7-3 victories across the two-day span.
Zurawski opened the floodgates in Game 1, notching an RBI triple in the top of the first followed by a three-RBI double in the third, pushing the SU lead out to a quick 4-0. Freshman Justin Byler boosted the SU advantage on a sacrifice fly, making it 5-0. Lock Haven responded with a three-run bottom of the third and a two-run bottom of the sixth, evening the score at five.
Byler came in clutch in the seventh, plating Zurawski on a single.
Graduate student Kyle Lysy (1-2) saw his worst outing of the year in 5 2/3 innings of work. Lysy scattered seven hits and four earned runs, while ringing up five. Sophomore Noah Nabholz came in relief, striking out three over the remaining 1 1/3 innings, closing the door on a 6-5 SU opening game win.
Higgins needed no help in Game 2 but received plenty from the batter’s box. Pitching a complete-game shutout — flirting with a no-hitter through 6 1/3 innings — Higgins wrung up 10 Bald Eagles and gifted four free passes. The 10 Ks yielded as back-to-back double-digit strikeout performances for Higgins.
Byler remained prominent in the victory, totaling three RBIs thanks to an opening-inning two-run blast to left-center field and a third-inning triple. Cason contributed two RBIs, a sacrifice fly and a triple. Sophomore Justin Darden nuked his second homer of the year in the fifth, which plated two runs and rounded out the Raiders’ scoring.
Game 3 presented a showdown on the rubber with neither starting pitcher giving in. Freshman Kaleb Sophy (1-1) molded together another noteworthy outing, working eight innings, all while dispersing six hits for two earned runs and a career-high 12 strikeouts. As if duplicating Higgins, Sophy’s 12 ring ups also served as his second straight game with double-digit strikeouts.
Nabholz tossed the final inning, allowing one earned run, while striking out two batters. Nabholz completed his weekend with two wins.
Darden tallied the pair of RBIs on a fourth-inning single before Cason’s extra-innings blast. Cason’s Game 3 line ended at 3-5 with the homerun, two RBIs and two stolen bases.
Freshman Gabe Stotler (2-0) received the Game 4 nod, following a three-inning exit in last weekend’s appearance due to injury concerns. He got the job done in 4 1/3 innings Saturday, earning his second win. Stotler gave up nine hits, three earned runs and knee-buckled five.
Freshman Austen Labarre sported a solid appearance out of the bullpen, going 2 2/3 innings. He allowed a single hit and struck out three in the process, while earning the save.
Hitting wise, SU scored six of its seven runs in the first three innings. Zurawski remained hot at the plate, with a first-inning two-run triple and a two RBI single in the second. Junior Ben Werkheiser, who is coming off a week filled with accolades — he earned National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) Hitter of the Week , NCBWA Athlete of the Week and Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) East Athlete of the Week — made sure to build off his busy week by ending the weekend of Raider scoring with an RBI double in the sixth.
With momentum in their favor, the Raiders will take on PSAC powerhouse Millersville University Friday and Saturday for another four-game, home-and-home series. SU travels to the Marauders’ diamond Friday before returning to Fairchild Field Saturday. First pitches for both days are scheduled for noon and 2:30 p.m.