WEST LAWN, Pa. (May 15) – Leading by one run with the tying and game-winning runs on base, the No. 33 California University of Pennsylvania baseball team edged Seton Hill, 6-5, at Owls Field on Saturday afternoon in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Tournament.
With the victory, the Vulcans improve 34-17 overall this season with a 2-1 mark in the double-elimination tournament. Cal U advances to play No. 16 West Chester in the third and final game on Saturday’s schedule with the game starting at approximately 6 p.m. Meanwhile, Seton Hill finishes the season with a 36-21 record after going 1-2 at the regional tournament.
“Our hitting was better today than the other days,” said sophomore center fielder Troy Handza (Glenshaw, Pa./Shaler), who blasted a solo homer in the victory. “I think we are ready to go tonight, we have a lot of energy and we don’t want to see our season end just yet.”
Cal U led by two runs, 6-4, entering the bottom of the ninth behind the effort of junior starter Sean Welsh (Doylestown, Pa./Central Bucks East) and two homers. Welsh opened the inning with a walk before being relieved by sophomore Jim Kirker (Bridgeville, Pa./South Fayette), who was making his first appearance in nearly a month.
“We knew going against a team with good speed who can score as quickly as Seton Hill can that we couldn’t afford to walk batters,” said head coach Mike Conte. “My choice was to go with Kirker because I knew he would be around the zone, which he was and we were fortunate.”
Kirker yielded a single to the first batter he faced and Seton Hill then executed a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position. The 6-3 right-hander then forced an infield popup before allowing an infield single that shortstop Casey Teagarden (Greensburg, Pa./Hempfield) prevented from going into the outfield to keep the game-tying run at third base, 6-5. Facing a 2-2 count, Kirker then retired the final out of the game on a called third strike to earn his third save of the year.
“Teagarden made an unbelievable play to help us secure the victory,” said Conte. “You always tell the infield to knock the ball down and don’t let it get to the outfield with runners at second and third.”
Welsh (1-4) earned the win in his third start of the season after allowing five runs (four earned) on eight hits and five walks in 8.0-plus innings. He also recorded a season- and career-high seven strikeouts. The junior left-hander, who is the Vulcans’ regular left fielder, forced Seton Hill to strand 10 runners on base, including five in scoring position.
After not scoring with the bases loaded in the first, Cal U took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second when junior left fielder Chuck Faust (Hershey, Pa./Hershey) opened the inning with a solo homer (seventh of the season) on the first pitch of the at-bat. The Vulcans expanded their lead in the third when Handza blasted a longball (11th of the season) off the top of the scoreboard in left field, 2-0.
The Vulcans continued to add to their lead by scoring three runs on four hits and one walk in the fifth. Senior right fielder Sam DiMatteo (Center, Pa./Center) led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on a single by Handza. After a walk loaded the bases, junior second baseman Aaron Ordy (Butler, Pa./Butler) lined a two-run single through the right side of the infield. Later in the inning, Teagarden collected a two-out, RBI infield single to make it a 5-0 lead.
Seton Hill cut into the deficit with a run in the top of the sixth before Cal U answered with a run in the bottom of the inning on a two-out, RBI single by junior first baseman Adam Links (New Hope, Pa./Central Bucks East). The Griffins then countered with a two-run homer by designated hitter Pat Trettel to cut the lead in half, 6-3.
In the eighth inning, the Griffins added another run on a two-out fielding error to make it a 6-4 contest. The Vulcans were retired in order in the bottom of the inning before holding on for the victory in the top of the ninth.
After managing only one hit through the first two days of the tournament, Handza anchored the Cal U offense by going 3-for-5 with a solo homer and three runs scored. Ordy added a pair of hits and RBI, while eight of the starters collected one hit. With his double in the fifth, DiMatteo tied the all-time school record of 50 doubles set by former third baseman Jason Foreman (1999-02).
The Vulcans will now face defending-regional champion West Chester at Owls Field tonight in a meeting of the last two Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Tournament Champions. Cal U defeated West Chester by an 8-3 count two weeks ago in this year’s PSAC Tournament.