AUBURNDALE, Fla. – Sophomore Carter Usowski continued his red-hot start to the season, notching his first career home run and first walk-off hit on the same day to help the Ursinus College baseball team salvage a split of Tuesday's doubleheader with Penn State Altoona.
Usowski, who is hitting .563 (9-for-16) through the first six games of 2017, punched a base hit into right field with the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth to hand the Bears a 5-4 extra-inning walk-off following a 5-2 defeat in the morning contest.
Usowski's clutch knock also delivered senior Billie Buckwalter his first career win. Buckwalter came on in the seventh and gave Ursinus three scoreless frames, scattering three hits and striking out three against three walks.
Game 1: Penn State Altoona 5, Ursinus 2
The Bears grabbed a quick lead on Usowski's sacrifice fly to left in the top of the second. Freshman Alex Mumme doubled to left to open the frame and advanced to third on a wild pitch before Usowski's brought him home with a fly ball. Altoona broke through with three runs in the bottom of the third, taking the upper hand on a two-out, two-run double by Gavin Roselli.
Usowski struck again in the fourth, this time powering a fly ball over the fence in left for a solo shot and the first home run of his career; the sophomore's drive gave him seven hits in his first ten at-bats of the season, three of them going for extra bases. Senior Avery Perez followed with a double down the left-field line but was left stranded.
The Bears threatened in the top of the fifth, when junior Travis Kozak was hit by a pitch and stole second. The inning short-circuited when the Nittany Lions' pitcher fielded a bunt and gunned down Kozak at third.
Jim Shomberg, whose sacrifice fly got the Nittany Lions on the board, and Roselli burned the Bears again in the bottom of the fifth. Shomberg snuck a run-scoring single through the right side, and Roselli's sacrifice fly to left made it 5-2. Ursinus had two on with two outs in the seventh, but George Stiuso nailed down the save and capped off three hitless innings of relief with a fly ball to left.
Roselli (three RBI) and Shomberg (two) accounted for all five runs for Altoona, and Austin Anderson finished 2-for-3 with a pair of runs.
Usowski became the second Ursinus player to homer this season. He joined senior CJ Diana, who provided the go-ahead run in the sixth inning of Sunday's 4-3 victory over Eastern Mennonite.
Kozak stole two bases for the Bears. Perez' two-bagger was his second in his first three official at-bats; he had the game-tying two-run double against Eastern Mennonite. Meanwhile, Mumme's first three collegiate hits have all been doubles.
Senior Brandon Wiedenfeld provided two scoreless frames in relief of senior starter Lou Aikins, who surrendered five runs on five hits with three walks and three strikeouts in four innings.
Game 2: Ursinus 5, Penn State Altoona 4 (9)
A two-run error staked the Bears to a second-inning lead, and Usowski pushed the bulge to 3-0 with a run-scoring single down the left-field line in the third. Diana led off the fourth with a triple and came home on a throwing error by the shortstop, making it 4-0.
Sophomore David Drea pulled several Houdini acts to take a shutout into the seventh. Altoona had runners on second and third with no outs in the first, and the bases loaded with nobody out in the third, but the Bears' southpaw somehow escaped both jams unscathed.
Drea exited after issuing back-to-back walks to open the seventh. The Nittany Lions pounced on the opportunity, chasing Weidenfeld with a single and a bases-loaded walk that cut the Ursinus lead to 4-1. Buckwalter came on and gave up a two-run double to Shomberg before Roselli's sacrifice fly knotted the affair at 4. Buckwalter still needed to get out of a trouble spot to keep the game tied, getting a strikeout and a pop-up to strand runners on the corners.
Buckwalter worked around a leadoff double in the eighth and ninth, punctuating his strong afternoon with a strikeout. Senior Alex Campbell singled through the left side to start the Ursinus ninth, and back-to-back bunt singles by Kozak and Diana packed the sacks for Usowski, who ended it with the walk-off single.
Kozak finished 3-for-5 with a run, while Diana (2-for-4, run), Usowski, and senior Austin Kurey (2-for-4, run) all had multiple hits for the Bears. Drea worked into the seventh, giving up two runs on just three hits; he navigated around six walks and struck out three.
The Bears take Wednesday off before a twin bill against SUNY Poly on Thursday. First pitch is slated for 9:15 a.m. in Winter Haven.