By Pete Chiodo
The Allegheny College baseball team went into its four-game series against Kenyon hoping to lock up home field advantage for the opening round of the North Coast Athletic Conference playoffs and make some headway in the race for the conference’s East Division title.
After Sunday’s doubleheader, however, the Gators’ postseason plans are still in a holding pattern after splitting with the visiting Lords.
Allegheny won the opener 2-1, coming out on top of a fierce pitching duel between Kyle Davis and Kenyon’s Tyler Dierke. But the Lords claimed game two, rallying from an early 6-2 deficit to grab an 8-7 victory.
“We still have a chance. We’re still good,” said Gators head coach Kelly Swiney. “If we get three out of four (from Kenyon) we put ourselves in a really good spot to get second place in the Eastern Division of the NCAC.”
That will be the Gators’ goal when they and Kenyon make up Saturday’s postponed twinbill on Tuesday under the lights at Slippery Rock University’s Jack Critchfield Park. Game times are 6 and 9 p.m.
“That will be big,” said Swiney. “If we can get two, that will put us in a good position going into the Wooster weekend.”
Allegheny finishes up its NCAC slate this coming Saturday and Sunday when it faces current East Division leader Wooster.
“If we sweep Kenyon (on Tuesday) then we guarantee ourselves the No. 2 seed and home field,” said Davis. “Then if we take three out of four from Wooster we would be able to take over first place. If we take two from Wooster and split with them, then we’ll have a coin flip for first place, which I’m not to eager to try.”
Davis certainly did his part to get the Gators the win in yesterday’s first game with Kenyon, firing a complete-game three-hitter with eight strikeouts and two walks from the mound.
At the same time, however, the Gators’ offense faced a tough task against Dierke, the Lords’ ace, who allowed just one base hit through the game’s first four innings.
Allegheny finally broke through in the fifth. Zach Gray and James Kim led off the inning with back-to-back singles. Then Frank Triozzi hit a fielder’s choice grounder with the bases loaded to force in Gray, giving the Gators a 1-0 lead.
Kenyon answered in the top of the sixth when Andrew Dunn hit a single up the middle to score Kyle Hardacker.
But Allegheny was right back on top in the bottom of the frame. Davis led off with a bunt single. Joe Killian moved Davis over with a hit up the middle. And Kim plopped one into the left-center gap to bring Davis around and make it 2-1.
Davis worked a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh, getting three clean defensive plays by his teammates to finish off the game.
Dierke ended his outing with two runs allowed on six hits with one walk and five Ks.
“(Davis) was first-team all-league last year. (Dierke) was second-team all league,” said Swiney. “He’s been their ace for three years. He’s a senior. You knew that game could have gone either way with the two aces facing each other.
“And we got that big hit by James Kim. A senior stepped up big and came through for us.”
Offense was more plentiful for both teams in the second game. Unfortunately for Allegheny, all of its hits came early before evaporating later in the game.
The Gators hung five runs on Lords starter Spencer Byers in the first inning. Ben Kirchler led it off with a double. Davis drew a walk. And Mike Pezzone laid down a bunt to move the runners over, but the throw to first was off the mark allowing Kirchler and Davis to score and Pezzone to advance to third.
Killian (who was 3-for-3 in game two) belted a double to right to bring Pezzone home. Gray added a two-bagger down the left field line to score Killian. And Triozzi later plated Gray off of third base with a one-out grounder, making it a 5-1 ball game.
Allegheny later stretched its lead to 6-2 in the third inning on a double to deep center field by Kim, followed two outs later by a single from Mike Kastelic.
The Gators had six base hits over the first three innings. They would be limited to just three more the rest of the game against Kenyon reliever Tim Krahn, who went scoreless through the final six frames, allowing two walks while striking out six.
“It was just frustrating,” said Swiney. “There were some bad breaks, some questionable calls, but at the end of the day when you score six runs and then you don’t score the next six innings it’s tough to blame anybody but yourself. It was there for the taking. We could have broke it open. We just never did it. Credit to (Krahn), he pitched well. But we just didn’t do enough at the plate.”
Kenyon’s offense started chipping away at Allegheny’s lead, scoring two runs in the fifth, one more in the seventh, and then taking the lead with a three-run eighth.
The Lords scored the tying run and the go-ahead run on two different wild pitches in the eighth.
The Gators had two more innings to get those runs back, but went three-up, three-down both times, allowing Kenyon to split the day.
“We just hit a lull,” said Davis. “We scored so many runs in the first inning that we got complacent, I think. We’ve got to come out and keep scoring, keep tacking on. ... It’s one of the hardest things to do in baseball, to kill a lull, to get back out of a slump. There’s no recipe for success, you’ve just got to do it.”
Pitcher Eric Brandt got the no-decision on the mound for Allegheny. He pitched seven innings and allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
The loss went to Paul Vojtek, who allowed three runs on two hits and a walk in one-third of an inning.