Prior to its last four games against Millersville University, the Shippensburg University baseball team was owner of nine wins in its last 10 contests.
However, following the home-and-home series versus the Marauders — which accounted for two doubleheaders a week apart from one another, the second taking place Tuesday — and Mansfield University, the Raiders (14-14, 12-12 PSAC East) have now dropped six of their last eight games. With the losing spurt, SU finds itself on the outside looking in of Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) postseason berth.
Across the pair of twin bills Friday and Saturday facing Mansfield, the Raiders fell in Games 1, 3 and 4 but earned their lone victory in Game 2, a 7-2 romping. In the trio of losses, the Mountaineers outscored SU by a mere four runs, taking Games 1 and 4 by a single score. Mansfield (10-18, 9-15 PSAC East) captured Game 3 with a two-score advantage.
In the Game 2 victory Friday at Fairchild Field, the Raiders used success on the mound and at the dish to fuel their win. Graduate Kyle Lysy (4-3) worked an impressive six innings, scattering five hits, one earned run and fanning nine. Freshman Chris Douglass would allow a run in seventh and walked two.
At the plate, the sophomore duo of Justin Darden and Tony Vavaroutsos each knocked a pair of hits in three at-bats. Darden opened the game’s scoring with a two-run bomb in the first, his third of the season. He would later add a single and scratch across a run (unearned) after reaching on an error.
Vavaroutsos one-upped his teammate with three RBIs across two doubles, one run plating in the fourth and two in the fifth. Junior Chase Zurawski contributed the other RBI on a fifth-inning single.
Before the Game 2 win, SU mustered just four hits in its opening-contest loss, Darden tallying the sole RBI on a fourth-inning groundout. The additional pair of runs came in the sixth on a Mountaineer throwing error.
After four straight starts, only allowing one earned run across 23 innings of work, Mansfield finally broke redshirt-sophomore Kiernan Higgins (3-4) of his dominant ways, tacking him for four earned runs, seven hits and five free passes. The SU hard-throwing righty struck out six Mountaineers in his five-inning appearance.
Freshman Austen Labarre shut out Mansfield in the remaining two stanzas, scattering a hit and striking out one.
With the polar opposite performances Friday, the Raiders looked to regain momentum but it never came to fruition.
Darden’s eruption in the batter’s box carried over into Saturday’s contests, as the hot-hitting third baseman would amass a 4-for-7 line, including three moonshots, all coming in Game 4. He is the first Raider since 2017 to rocket three balls out of the park in a game.
Despite being held winless in the doubleheader, the Raiders held their own on both ends of the twin bill, falling 3-1 in Game 3 and 10-9 in Game 4.
Freshman Kaleb Sophy (1-4) tossed a respectable six frames in Game 3, conceding six hits, three earned runs, wringing up five. SU tallied seven knocks but left five runners on base. The Raiders only run came on a Zurawski first-inning fielder’s choice.
Graduate student JuJu Cason furnished two hits in the loss, a team-high for the game. Cason finished his weekend versus the Mountaineers with a 6-for-15 line. He also added two stolen bases to his season total, giving him 14, the most in a single season by a Raider since 2016.
Outside of Darden’s three round-trippers, 3-for-4 afternoon and six RBIs — the trio of homers coming in the first, third and fifth frames — the Raiders piled on an additional six hits to reach nine runs in Game 4. The three remaining runs came in the top of seventh thanks to freshmen Andrew Chronister, Joe Barbera and sophomore Lake Lloyd. Chronister plated Zurawski on a single, Barbera doubled home Vavaroutsos and Lloyd scorched a stinger to left field, counting as a sacrifice fly.
On the rubber, SU featured five different arms in the score-heavy loss. Freshman Gabe Stotler received the starting nod, exiting after a third of an inning. He allowed one run.
Sophomore Noah Nabholz, freshman Ethan Miller, Labarre and redshirt-sophomore Matt Ryan combined for the remaining 6 2/3 innings. Nabholz, Miller and Ryan were tagged for two earned runs each, Labarre three.
Ryan — making his season debut — garnered the loss after blowing a 9-7 Raider lead heading into the bottom of the seventh. He would permit the game-clinching runs on an RBI single — the run going to Labarre’s line — and a two-RBI two-bagger, Mansfield winning in walk-off fashion.
The Raiders return to Fairchild Field Thursday for the beginning of another home-and-home series versus PSAC Eastern Division rival West Chester University. SU will travel to Golden Ram territory Friday to conclude the series. First pitches Thursday are slated for noon and 2:30 p.m.