PETERSBURG, Va. – A four-run sixth inning helped the Bucknell baseball team come back from an early 2-0 deficit and defeat Niagara 4-2 in the seven-inning game one of a doubleheader Saturday afternoon at the Petersburgh Sports Complex. The Bison again used a strong late offense in the nine-inning game two, plating a total of eight runs in the seventh and eighth innings en route to a 9-2 victory and a doubleheader sweep of the Purple Eagles.
This weekend’s four-game series was originally scheduled to take place at Depew Field, but the winter weather pushed Bucknell and Niagara about five hours south. Saturday’s wins stretched the Bison’s winning streak to three games as they improved to 3-4. The Purple Eagles fell to 3-6 on the campaign.
Joe Ogren finished the twinbill 5-for-8 with three RBIs and three runs scored. He registered a pair of multi-hit outings, including a 3-for-4 performance in game two. Sam Clark was 3-for-5 with a pair of RBIs in the nightcap, while Rob Krentzman’s seventh-inning grand slam broke the game open for Bucknell, which also received strong pitching all day.
Bison starters Bryson Hough (game one) and Dan Weigel (game two) logged at least six innings and both were charged with just two earned runs. Relievers Tucker Rekucki, who earned his first career save in game one, Tom Hrabchak and Mike Castellani combined to pitch 3.2 innings and struck out eight while allowing just two hits and no runs.
It took a while for the Bucknell bats to get going in game one as a two-out fourth inning single by Ogren marked the only baserunner for the Bison over the first five innings against Niagara starter Jordan Schwartz (1-2). However, Bucknell batted around in the sixth and scored four runs to turn a 2-0 deficit into a two-run lead.
Anthony Gingerelli led off the sixth with a double to right field. He moved to third on a single by Alex O’Neill and later scored on a fielder’s choice by Brett Smith. A triple by Corey Furman tied the score at 2-2, while Ogren followed with a go-ahead single to right. Krentzman’s two-out single to center pushed home and insurance run.
That insurance run was not needed as Rekucki relieved Hough (1-1) to begin the top of the seventh. The first hitter reached on an error, but Rekucki then retired the next three hitters – two by strikeout - to close out the win.
Niagara took a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh in game two before the Bison bats again got hot. Bucknell sent eight hitters to the plate and scored five runs in its half of the seventh. A leadoff walk by O’Neill got things started. A bases-loaded single by Clark pushed across the first run. Krentzman followed two batters later with a grand slam. It was his third career grand slam and it staked the Bison to a 6-2 lead.
A leadoff walk again got things started in the eighth as Gingerelli drew one this time. He scored on O’Neill’s double, while Ogren (triple) and Clark (single) added RBIs on two-out hits to make it 9-2.
Weigel started on the mound for Bucknell and pitched into the seventh inning. He allowed just seven hits and two runs while striking out four and walking none. Hrabchak got the two hitters he faced in the seventh after entering with one out and a runner on third. Castellani then pitched a scoreless final two frames with five strikeouts. He allowed two singles in the eighth, but was able to work out of the small jam.
Niagara used five pitchers in game two, including four relievers over the final three innings. Jacob Lysiak (0-1) was charged with the loss for the Purple Eagles.
"I was happy with our overall offensive approach today," said Bison second-year head coach Scott Heather. " We faced two quality starters and battled throughout the day until we were able to break through with some key hits. The key to the day though was the bullpen. After getting good starts from Bryson and Dan, our bullpen came in and shut the door, giving the bats a chance. Tom Hrabchak got the biggest two outs leaving a guy in scoring position."
Overall, Bucknell had 20 hits on the day, including 14 in game two. Fourteen of the Bison hits came off the bats of freshmen or sophomores.
Bucknell has outscored its opponents 22-9 during its current three-game winning streak.
The Bison and Purple Eagles will wrap up their weekend series Sunday with two more games at the Petersburg Sports Complex. First pitch is slated for 12 p.m. Game one will once again be seven innings, while game two will be nine.