Robert Morris splits series with Penguins


Dana Vatakis allowed just one run in the second game as the Colonials split their series with YSU. Photo Credit: Ethan Morrison

By Ethan Morrison, Assistant Sports Editor

MOON TOWNSHIP, Pa.— On Saturday afternoon, Robert Morris and Youngstown State battled it out to decide who would take the series after the Colonials and Penguins split games one and two of the series.

Both teams would battle hard once again, splitting the overall series with Robert Morris taking the second game of the doubleheader in extra innings once again thanks to a Madison Riggle walk-off single.

GAME 1: Penguins 3, Colonials 0

WP: Elle Buffenbarger (15-3) 7.0 IP 4 H 7 BB 5 K 0 ER

LP: Rachael Rhinehart (7-3) 4.1 IP 6 H 3 BB 6 K 2 R 1 ER

Rachael Rhinehart was in the circle for the Colonials and Elle Buffenbarger made her third consecutive start of the series for the Penguins.

The Penguins got on the board first off of a Rhinehart wild pitch which allowed Yazmine Romero to come home from third.

Youngstown State added insurance in the fourth inning as Yazmine Romero slapped a ball that landed in between the second baseman and shortstop with two outs in the inning to give YSU a two-run advantage.

The Penguins tacked on another run for good measure in the sixth inning as Maddi Lusk crushed a home run that carried halfway up the hill in left field to put YSU up another run.

The Robert Morris bats fell silent once again as Colonials had no answer for Buffenbarger as she tossed seven scoreless innings, recording five strikeouts and four hits.

“We didn’t cash in the opportunities. We left eight runners in scoring position and 12 overall in that game except for in the seventh,” said Varner.

Despite a decent performance, Rachael Rhinehart came out on the losing end in game one pitching 4.1 innings, allowing six hits, three walks and one run.

GAME 2: Colonials 2, Penguins 1 F/8

WP: Dana Vatakis (10-5) 8.0 IP 3 H 1 R 0 ER 8 K

LP: Maddi Lusk (11-4) 7.1 IP 6 H 2 R 0 ER 1 BB 7 K

YSU got to Vatakis quickly as opposing pitcher Lusk singled to right and advanced to third on a fielding error. Lusk then came into score off of a wild pitch to give the Penguins the early lead.

The Colonials did not waste any time to strike back, as in the second inning, Madison Riggle striped a ball into the alley for a one-out triple. Shortstop Alex DeLeon committed an error on a ground ball which allowed Riggle to score and Avery Winchell to reach safely at first.

After the first inning, both pitchers settled in and the game became a pitchers’ duel. Maddi Lusk was dominant, pitching seven and one-third innings, allowing just six hits and punching out seven while only allowing one free pass. She also robbed the Colonials of a few base hits and possibly some runs with her impressive glove work. Varner praised the opposing pitcher.

“Maddi is a good fielding pitcher, she’s an athlete, she made a couple of real good plays for them, and it’s tough in that way but sometimes you have games like that. You can’t do a whole lot about it you are going to have balls hit right at people and you can’t get really upset about it.”

Dana Vatakis pitched eight innings only allowing three hits and one run. The run that she allowed was unearned, she also struck out eight on the day.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Natalie Higgins reached on an error. When catcher Erika Bell stepped up to the dish, she reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on a wild throw. Riggle then singled up the middle to bring Bell home to score the winning run.

“When she swings the bat and is aggressive, she puts the bat on the ball. She hits the ball hard,” Varner said on Riggle. “It could be up the hill or a hard ground ball that the defense can’t make a play on. It is great having her back.”

Robert Morris resumes their eight-game homestand next Friday against Northern Kentucky at 2:30 p.m.