WASHINGTON, Pa. — Over the past month, the IUP baseball team made a charge at the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference playoffs, but the Crimson Hawks fell short and will miss the postseason for the second straight season.
Playing its regular-season finale and hoping to extend its season, IUP managed a split of Saturday’s doubleheader with California, but the Hawks were eliminated from the postseason chase later in the day when Slippery Rock defeated Gannon in the second game of their doubleheader to sew up the final playoff spot.
IUP finished the regular season at 27-23, including 13-11 in PSAC West play. Slippery Rock finished with the same division record, and the teams tied for fourth place.
But the final playoff spot went to The Rock because they own the tiebreaker over IUP, the head-to-head record. Slippery Rock took three of four from IUP on April 20 and 21.
“Cal has outstanding talents,” IUP coach Jeff Ditch said. “We were able to fight to the end. Unfortunately, it ended with us scoreboard-watching and not getting a playoff bid.”
Ryan Uhl, Dylan Tice and Brett Quiggle all homered for IUP in a 9-2 victory in Game 2 as the Crimson Hawks ended the season on a winning note.
IUP dropped the first game, 4-3, in eight innings after giving up a bases-loaded, two-out walk.
Uhl blasted a three-run shot during IUP’s four-run second inning, and the Crimson Hawks never looked back in Game 2.
Dylan Tice, who had an RBI single during the four-run second, led off the fifth with a solo homer to make it 5-1, and Quiggle hit a three-run shot in the sixth to cap another four-run inning and make it 9-1.
Uhl went 3-for-4, Quiggle finished 2-for-4 and both totaled three RBIs. Tice was 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs.
Making just his fourth start of the season, IUP’s Matt Szukics threw his second complete game in Game 2, allowing six hits and one earned run.
After losing three games of a four-game weekend set to Gannon on April 5 and 7, IUP dropped to 2-6 in PSAC West play and hovered near the bottom of the standings.
After that series, IUP went 11-5 in the division the rest of the way to make a strong playoff push, and the Hawks showed a flair for the dramatics.
The stretch included four comeback wins in a four-game sweep of Lock Haven last weekend, and another huge comeback win Friday, when the Hawks rallied from a 10-4 deficit to beat California in their home finale.
But three of the losses during the closing run came to Slippery Rock, and they proved costly.
“Senior leadership and the strong will to extend our season gave us a spark,” Ditch said. “The team rallied around each other to connect positive innings and sweep both Clarion and Lock Haven.”
In the opening game of Saturday’s twinbill, IUP twice rallied from one-run deficits to force extra innings.
IUP got on the board first in the opener, getting consecutive singles from Robbie Zinsmeister and Tice to start the game before Troy Foster delivered a sacrifice fly for a 1-0 lead.
California quickly tied it at 1 with an unearned run in the bottom of the first, and the Vulcans took a 2-1 lead in the third.
IUP pulled even at 2-2 with a two-out RBI single from Zinsmeister in the top of the fifth, but California’s John Orr delivered his second RBI single of the day in the same inning to give the Vulcans the lead again, 3-2.
Then, in the top of the sixth, with two outs and the bases loaded, IUP’s Rick Jones drew a walk to force in a run and tie the game at 3.
IUP’s starter in Game 1, Kyle Zaorski, was pulled with two outs and two runners on in the eighth, and Demetrius Christofes came on and gave up back-to-back walks that gave California the victory.
Zinsmeister and Tice each went 2-for-4 to lead IUP in the opener.