Altoona baseball loses shootout with Hopkins in NCAA opener

Penn State Altoona baseball player at bat during the NCAA finals

Penn State Altoona baseball lost a high-scoring affair with No. 1 Johns Hopkins University on Friday, May 19, falling 23-9 to the Blue Jays in the Baltimore Region of the NCAA Division III Tournament at Babb Field at Stromberg Stadium.

Credit: Penn State

BALTIMORE — Penn State Altoona baseball lost a high-scoring affair with No. 1 Johns Hopkins University on May 19, falling 23-9 to the Blue Jays in the Baltimore Region of the NCAA Division III Tournament at Babb Field at Stromberg Stadium.

Penn State Altoona (20-26), in its second-ever NCAA postseason appearance, continued its recent offensive momentum by pounding out 14 hits and getting nine runs across. However, Johns Hopkins (40-4), the top-ranked team in the country, took a big lead with an eight-run bottom of the third, then outpaced the Lions the rest of the way.

The two teams combined for 11 home runs and 36 hits in the game, with the Blue Jays hitting eight long balls themselves.

Penn State Altoona had a trio of batters finish with a three-hit day. Jake Hillard of State College was 3-for-5 with his fourth home run of the season, three runs batted in, and two runs scored. Jonathan Rauch of Pittsburgh went 3-for-4 with his fifth homer of the year, three RBI, and two runs scored, and Garrett Alauzen of Pittsburgh was 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI, and a walk.

Richard Carey of Milton, Delaware, hit his third home run of the season for the Lions, and Grant Barberich of Leesburg, Virginia, Corey Chamberlain of Claysburg, Alex Hlivia of Pennsylvania Furnace, and Grayson McClain of Mount Union also had one hit apiece.

Eli Wiles of Kittanning was the Lions’ starting pitcher, tossing 2 2/3 innings and taking the loss. Cameron Dubbs of Palmyra pitched the next 2 1/3 innings in relief, followed by Sean Wing’s (Staten Island, New York) two innings out of the bullpen. Mack Meengs of State College and Joshua Fleck of Orbisonia also made relief appearances for the Lions.

Penn State Altoona scored the game’s first run in the top of the first. Rauch was hit by a pitch with one out, and after a groundout, Alauzen’s two-out base hit to center plated Rauch to make it 1-0.

Johns Hopkins, the top home run-hitting team in the nation, sent one over the fence in the bottom of the first to even the score, as Dillon Souvignier’s solo homer to left-center field tied things up, 1-1.

Penn State Altoona leapt back in front in the top of the second. Timothy Richard of Douglassville led off the frame by drawing a walk, then stole second to move into scoring position. Later, with two outs in the inning, McClain’s RBI single to center put the Lions back on top, 2-1.

The Lions held their one-run lead until the bottom of the third, when Johns Hopkins scored eight runs, all with two outs. Shawn Steuerer’s two-run homer to left center gave the Blue Jays their first lead of the game, and Sam Frank followed with a solo shot to make it 4-2. Two batters later, Jimmy Stevens’ RBI single gave the home team a three-run advantage, and Dylan Whitney’s three-run home run to left made it 8-2. An RBI double from Souvignier two batters later gave Johns Hopkins a 9-2 advantage.

Penn State Altoona got a big swing in the top of the fourth to stay in the game, capitalizing on a Johns Hopkins error that kept the door open for the Lions. With one out, Barberich singled to left, and Hlivia reached on a fielding error by the third baseman on the next play to put two aboard. A foul out in the next at-bat made two outs, but Hillard made the Blue Jays pay for their defensive miscue, hitting a three-run homer to left to bring Penn State Altoona back to within four, 9-5.

Johns Hopkins answered with a Caleb Cyr two-run home run in the bottom of the fourth to get its advantage back to six, 11-5.

Penn State Altoona trimmed a run off of its deficit in the top half of the fifth, when Carey’s one-out solo shot to left made it 11-6.

But the Blue Jays kept the offense coming in the bottom of the fifth, as solo homers by Matthew Cooper and Steuerer, as well as a two-run home run by Cyr, increased the home squad’s lead to 15-6.

Penn State Altoona cut into the Johns Hopkins lead in the top of the sixth, making it a seven-run game. After Hillard’s two-out single up the middle, Rauch hit a two-run home run to left to make it 15-8.

Johns Hopkins continued scoring in the sixth and seventh innings. Souvignier’s sacrifice fly and Steuerer’s RBI single added two runs to the Blue Jays’ total in the sixth, and Souvignier’s RBI base hit in the seventh made it 18-8.

The Lions got a run back in the top of the eighth, when McClain led off with a walk, moved to second on Hillard’s single, then scored on Rauch’s RBI base hit into center field.

But Johns Hopkins grew its lead in the bottom of the eighth by scoring five more runs, and the Blue Jays finished with a comfortable win over the Lions.

Penn State Altoona will play an elimination game on Saturday, May 20, at 11 a.m. against the loser of this afternoon’s contest between No. 20 Randolph-Macon College and St. John Fisher University.