(Posted April 24, 2010)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Coming into this weekend series tied in third place in the Landmark Conference, bitter rivals Juniata College and Susquehanna University played like their playoffs hopes were on the line. Juniata needed a walk-off single to take game one, 6-5, before Susquehanna held onto its early lead to take game two, 3-2, Saturday afternoon on Langdon-Goodale Field.

In a sense, both teams' playoff hopes are on the line, as the winner of the series will take a one game jump into third place going into the final weekend of play.

The first leg of the doubleheader ended in dramatic fashion, as freshman Evan Pappas (Potomac, Md./Thomas Sprigg Wootton) singled in the game-winning run with two outs in the seventh inning.

But Juniata (11-21, 8-6 Landmark) needed to make a comeback before getting to that point. They did the majority of their damage in the fourth inning, trailing 4-0.

Johnny Martinez (Mt. Union, Pa./Mt. Union) led off the hitting scorching one over the right fielder's head for a double. Two batters later, Ian Thorne (Germantown, Md./Seneca Valley) followed with a single, driving in Martinez for the Eagles' first run. Russ Gray (Johnstown, Pa./Richland) brought Thorne home from second on another single, cutting the lead in half.

Three batters later, now with two outs and two men on, Kyle Saxman (York, Pa./York Suburban) lined one right up the box, bringing Gray around to score the third run. Then it was Chase Dykstra's (Somerset, Pa./Somerset Area) turn as he blasted a two run triple into the gap in left center to cap the scoring in the fourth inning.

Starting pitcher Tyler Clifford (Homer City, Pa./Homer Center) gave up the tying run in the sixth, but masterfully worked out of a one out jam to keep the Eagles tied heading into the final inning.

After Clifford shut Susquehanna (15-17, 8-6 Landmark) down in order in the top half of the seventh, it was time for Pappas' heroics.

With one out, the next three Eagle batters reached base. Martinez and Greg Hoffman (Phoenix, Md./Dulaney) reached on singles, before Thorne was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. But Andy Hergan struck out Gray to put the pressure on Pappas.

Not wasting anytime, Pappas took the first pitch he saw and roped it up the middle, one hopping the centerfielder, scoring Martinez with the game-winner.

Clifford went the distance on the mound for Juniata, earning his fourth win of the season.

Game two settled into more of a pitching duel, as Matt Regan (Downingtown, Pa./Devon Prep) and Matt Lottes went toe to toe for the first five innings.

The Crusaders scored their three runs in the first two innings before Regan settled into somewhat of a rhythm for the remainder of the game.

After a walk put the first batter of the game on base, Regan got the next two batters out before a two out rally put the Crusaders on the board. Two walks and a single out of the next three batters produced a run before Regan induced a foul out to leave the bases loaded in the first.

Susquehanna struck again in the second, as two more walks came back to hurt Regan and the Eagles. With the bases loaded and two outs following an infield single, Nick Ferlise singled in the two walks, to put the Crusaders up 3-0 after two at-bats.

The Eagles didn't respond until the fifth inning, when they finally figured out Lottes. Juniata managed four straight hits off Lottes to open the frame before an out was recorded. Gray led things off with a single, followed by a double down the left field line by Pappas. Tom Eck (Columbia, Pa./Lancaster Catholic) hit a seed to the left side, as either the shortstop or third baseman was able to make a play on it, Gray scored the first run. Then Saxman finished off the hit parade with a single through the left side, plating Pappas.

But a pick off at second base and ground ball double play in a matter of three pitches ruined the inning for Juniata, as they only managed two runs.

Trailing by one in the bottom of the seventh, the Eagles made it interesting, but another base running mistake cost them a chance to tie it up.

Gray and Pappas each reached on errors by the infield to start the inning off. But, running on contact from first, Pappas was doubled off as the sacrifice bunt attempt was popped up into the air, and caught by the pitcher. Saxman couldn't pick up his teammate, as his drive to right was caught to end the game.

Regan went the distance as well for the Eagles, giving up the three earned runs on seven hits, while striking out seven batters. But he also allowed eight free bases via the walk.

The two teams square off for a lone spot in third place on Sunday, as they finish up their three game series in Huntingdon. First pitch for the 9-inning contest is slated to be thrown at 12:00 p.m.


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Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.