Joe Sforza pitches Juniata to Landmark win

HUNTINGDON, PA. – Juniata College baseball's sophomore pitcher Joe Sforza (Pittstown, N.J./Immaculata) was two outs away in the seventh inning from recording a no-hitter in game one against Susquehanna University at Langdon-Goodale Field Saturday afternoon as he led Juniata to a 5-1 Landmark Conference victory.

Juniata (12-24, 3-14 Landmark) fell in game two 7-4.

The Crusaders opened game one with its only run of the game that developed from two Juniata miscues, a stolen base and a wild pitch.

That would be the only action Susquehanna (15-23, 4-13 Landmark) would see until the game's final inning, as Sforza racked up six strike outs and didn't walk a single Susquehanna batter. The Crusaders' Ethan Rieker sneaked a grounder through the left side and Mike Rucereto managed a double back-to-back in the seventh.

The 5-1 win marks Sforza's third win on the season and the two hits is the least amount of hits Juniata has given up in a seven inning game all Spring. 

However, Sforza certainly didn't do it alone, as the Eagles cranked out seven hits in game one. It took until the third inning for Juniata to get on the board, and it wasn't at all surprising that junior Ben Mersky (Hershey, Pa./Hershey) was the Juniata batter to single to center field to drive in senior Matt Fritz (Schnecksville, Pa./Parkland), who reached first on a throwing error.

After adding a run in the fourth, the Eagles tacked on two more in the bottom of the fifth that developed from a leadoff Brad Medellin (Lewisberry, Pa./Red Land) single up the middle. Medellin scored two batters later when a Cole Walters (Mt. Union, Pa./Mt. Union) grounder was mishandled. Tom Eck (Columbia, Pa./Lancaster Catholic) stepped-up and hit a long fly ball into deep left field to allow Walters to tag and score later in the inning.

Another sacrifice fly in the sixth, this time from Dan Gray (Johnstown, Pa./Richland), plated Juniata's fifth and final run of the game. Mersky doubled down the left field line and Medellin singled to advance Mersky to third that allowed D. Gray's fly ball to plate Mersky.

In game two Juniata couldn't seem to get runs on the board throughout the majority of the game, as it was trailing 7-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth.

The Eagles managed to close the gap with three runs in the sixth with senior Russell Gray (Johnstown, Pa./Richland) getting things started with a walk. Walters singled and a Derek Heath (Huntingdon, Pa./Huntingdon) walk loaded the bases. A fielder's choice play nabbed R. Gray out at home, but a Mersky double to left center two batters later allowed Walters and Heath to cross the plate. Medellin singled in the next at bat to plate Fritz.

Freshman Chris Fulton (West Chester, Pa./Unionville High School) got the start on the bump for Juniata and pitched 4.0 innings. Mario DeYulius (Ebensburg, Pa./Central Cambria) stepped in during the fifth and completed 2.0 innings and was followed by junior Josh Green (Hagerstown, Md./Clear Spring) who threw the final inning of the game. All three pitchers charted one strike out.

On the day, the Eagles were led by the offensive efforts of Medellin who notched five hits, three of which came in game two, and one RBI. With today's performance, Medellin stretched his multiple hits per game streak to four contests. Mersky and R. Gray both tallied three hits apiece, with Mersky driving in three runs and launching two doubles and R. Gray charting one.

Juniata and Susquehanna complete their Landmark Conference series with a nine-inning game on Sunday, April 29. The Eagles will honor and acknowledge the accomplishments of its ten graduating seniors prior to the start of the 12:00 p.m. game.

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