Seton Hill runs to national ranking

| Saturday, April 14, 2012

Let Marc Marizzaldi coach third base at PNC Park, and Rod Barajas might get the green light to steal second.

'We run a ton,' said Marizzaldi, who`s in his ninth year as the baseball coach at NCAA Division II Seton Hill University. 'We have some team speed, which we take advantage of, but even some of our slower guys steal a lot of bases.

'We think it gives us a competitive advantage.'

It`s sure tough to argue: The run-first, worry-later mentality has produced a 29-7 overall record entering Friday, a 21-3 mark in West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play and the No. 16 spot in the national rankings.

The Griffins` 106 steals in 122 attempts is an average of 2.94 per game, which should shatter the school`s all-time mark of 139 set in 2006. It`s also nearly double the No. 2 team in the WVIAC and sixth-best nationwide.

But the steals, really, represent only part of Seton Hill`s WVIAC dominance: a 3.77 earned-run average and 222 strikeouts, both tops in the conference; a .332 batting average, also No. 1 out of 15 teams; and a league-best fielding percentage of .968.

'Our numbers are at the top of our conference, but we don`t really concern ourselves with that,' said Marizzaldi, who has had a ton of success recruiting locally, with 25 of Seton Hill`s 33 players having WPIAL ties.

'It`s more about measuring ourselves against the best teams in the country because that`s where we want to be.'

It`s also where the Griffins were for a 12-day stretch in late February and early March, when they played five ranked opponents and beat three of them.

'That,' Marizzaldi said, 'was a pleasant surprise.'

Third baseman Nick Sell (North Allegheny) leads Seton Hill with a .406 batting average. He`s also tied with outfielder Jackson Boyd (North Allegheny) for the most home runs (6) and has a team-best 37 RBI. Second baseman Brendan Constantino (Geibel) leads the WVIAC in steals with 19.

On the mound, Brad Schnelle (Moon) is 6-0, while Clint White (Plum) and Alex Haines (Hempfield) and Brett Sullivan all have four wins. Reliever Jon Murphy (Hempfield) sports a conference-best 1.10 ERA.

'We have some depth this year, and I think that has allowed us to not rely on certain guys all the time,' said Marizzaldi, who has guided the Griffins to back-to-back NCAA Atlantic Regional appearances. 'We do have 11 seniors, but it seems like each week it`s a different guy stepping up and getting the job done.'

All in the family

Waynesburg catcher Brendan Scioscia`s cousin, Mike, is the longest-tenured manager in Major League Baseball, with more than 1,000 wins since taking over the Angels in 2000. And while Brendan wants to make his own way, he sure wouldn`t mind if some of that winning was genetic.

Waynesburg (16-10, 6-6 before Friday`s games) has missed the Presidents` Athletic Conference playoffs by one game in each of the past three years, a frustrating stretch that the senior catcher has done his best to stop by hitting a sparkling .432 (35 for 81) this season with 10 doubles and 23 RBI. He has also drawn a team-high 16 walks.

'Having missed the playoffs by one game the past three years, we want to change that,' Scioscia said. 'We don`t want that same letdown at the end of the year like we`ve had the past three years.'

Around the district

The Penn State men`s gymnastics team and women`s team member Sharaya Musser — the 2012 Big Ten and Northeast Region Gymnast of the Year — will compete at separate NCAA Division I championships this weekend. The Penn State men have won 12 NCAA titles, though none since 2007. ... The Grove City men`s tennis team, which has captured the past 22 PAC team titles and last spring became the first conference team to reach the NCAA Division III tournament, has been bolstered by the emergence of freshman Peter Riley, who`s 3-0 at No. 1 singles and 6-1 at No. 1 doubles, including a 4-0 combined mark last week. ... The No. 8 California (Pa.) women`s tennis team (18-5) claimed its eighth consecutive PSAC West title by blanking Slippery Rock, 9-0, on Tuesday.

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