HICKORY, N.C. (Feb. 13) – Behind a six-run first inning, the No. 19 California University of Pennsylvania baseball team earned a 13-9 victory over Lenoir-Rhyne on Sunday afternoon as head Mike Conte became the winningest coach in program history.
With the win, the Vulcans open the season at 2-1 after making their fifth all-time NCAA Tournament appearance last season. Conte moved passed his predecessor Chuck Gismondi (1980-96) with his 396th career victory. In his 15 years with the program, Conte has posted an impressive 396-271-4 overall record with Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Tournament Championships in 2004 and 2010. Meanwhile, Lenoir-Rhyne falls to 2-7 this year after posting a 21-win campaign last season.
Sophomore starter Tyler Zimm (Fayetteville, W.Va./Oak Hill) earned the win after yielding just one run on five hits and two walks in 6.0 innings. The Vulcans then used three relievers over the final three innings to secure the win. Fellow sophomore Kyle Petty (Stewartsville, N.J./Phillipsburg), who started the game at catcher, moved to the mound with runners on the corners with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and forced an infield popup to end the game.
Senior left fielder Sean Welsh (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks East) set career highs with four hits and four RBI while scoring two runs against the Bears. Junior centerfielder Troy Handza (Glenshaw, Pa./Shaler) finished 3-for-5 with two RBI, three runs and three steals, while Petty added a pair of singles and three RBI.
Cal U jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the top of the first behind four singles, three walks and an astounding eight steals. Handza, Welsh and Petty each collected two-run singles in the inning before L-R was able to record an out. The Vulcans added to their lead with a run in both the second and third innings to expand their lead to 8-1.
In the sixth inning, Welsh and Petty again drove in a run with singles before freshman right fielder Ben Carson (Coal Center, Pa./California) lined a two-out, two-run single into center field. The teams then each plated a run in the seventh before the Bears scored seven runs (three earned) on only three hits in the bottom of the ninth.
Sophomore second baseman Evan King (Lancaster, Pa /Lampeter-Strasburg) finished 2-for-5 with one RBI, two runs and two steals, while Carson and senior third baseman Casey Teagarden (Greensburg, Pa./Hempfield) posted a pair of singles in the victory.
Bears’ sophomore Mike Kramer (1-2) was saddled with the loss after being roughed up for six runs (all earned) and three walks while failing to record an out in the start.
In the series against L-R, Cal U limited Bears’ catcher and Tino Martinez Award candidate Brian Dice to just only a .182 average (2-for-11) with one homer and two RBI after he finished last year with a .435 average, 16 homers and 59 RBI.
The Vulcans return back to North Carolina next weekend for a three-game series against Belmont-Abbey, beginning with a doubleheader on Saturday, Feb. 19.