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No. 21 Point Park takes two from Rio Grande to start KIAC road series

April 4, 2015 at 9:45 p.m. ET

Point Park 2B Chaz Russo (10) takes a throw with Rio Grande's Kevin Arroyo stealing second in Game 1. Photo by URG.


RIO GRANDE, Ohio -- No. 21 Point Park University won two closely contested, KIAC baseball games at Rio Grande on Saturday, 4-3 and 3-1. The victories began the four-game series that pits the top two teams in the standings through the first two weeks of the season.

Point Park (24-5, 9-1 KIAC) extended its win streak of seven games by using a similar pattern in both wins over Rio Grande (16-18, 6-4 KIAC). The Pioneers got some timely hitting in both games, had starting pitchers Nathan Sphon and Nolan Krivijanski each pitch into the seventh inning and had closer Jake Horew hammer down both victories with saves.

The series concludes on Monday with two more games in Rio Grande, Ohio. Game time is 1 p.m. for the doubleheader. Both games will have live video and live stats courtesy of RedStorm athletics: Watch Live / Live Stats

Senior left-hander Nate Sphon (4-2) put up another outstanding pitching performance in Saturday's opener. The Greensburg, Pa., native gave up only two earned runs over 6.2 innings, struck out five and walked one. He scattered nine hits -- never more than two in any inning -- and kept the RedStorm hitters off balance.

Rio Grande scored twice in the bottom of the seventh to cut the Point Park lead to 4-3. But Horew moved over from his shortstop position to close things out on the mound. He took over with two outs, a runner at first and a 4-2 lead. A walk and an error cut the lead to a single run and put the tying run at third. But Horew got a flyout to end it.

Senior second baseman Chaz Russo had an excellent game for Point Park. In the close-knit win, his 2-for-3 performance with two RBIs and a run stood out. He stole home in the second inning for a 2-0 lead. Earlier in the inning, Demetrius Moorer had delivered an RBI single.

Russo came up big once again when his two-run double in the fourth padded the Point Park lead to 4-1. Base hits by Horew and Jordan Crowell got the inning started. Point Park scored in only two innings, and Crowell singled and scored in each. He was 2 for 3 with two runs. The Pioneers totaled eight hits.

Losing pitcher Kyle Miller (4-2), a lefty, went all seven innings for Rio Grande. He gave up eight hits, struck out four and walked four. Miller threw 120 pitches.

It was another strong start for the Pioneers with Krivijanski in the nightcap. The junior right-hander worked 6.1 innings and gave up just a single run. Rio Grande cut the Point Park lead to 2-1 with a couple of doubles in the first inning, but the RedStorm did not score again.

Krivijanski gave up six hits and struck out five to put up zeros the rest of the way. He was relieved after giving up a one-out walk in the seventh. But Horew retired the only two batters he faced to secure the 3-1 victory and pick up his fifth save in five chances.

Stefan Mrkonja was 3 for 3 and scored two of the three runs to lead the Point Park offense. Chris Hernandez was 1 for 2 with a walk and two RBIs and smashed a two-out double in the top the first to drive in two runs.

Point Park added an insurance run in the sixth for a 3-1 lead. After Mrkonja's lead-off single, he moved to second on a bunt by Oscar Romero and to third on a groundout. Horew drove him in with a base hit, one of his two singles in the game.

Trent Downs (2-1) took the loss in seven innings for Rio Grande. He gave up just one earned run on seven hits and racked up six strikeouts and just one walk.

The two games at Rio Grande on Monday are the last scheduled road games for Point Park, which has yet to play a home game this year. The Pioneers, who are 24-5 overall and have played all 29 games away from home, have their final 18 scheduled games at home after the Rio Grande series ends.

Follow the Pioneers on Twitter @PointParkSports and @PPUBaseball