Seton Hill turns focus to Atlantic Region tournament
With music blaring in the background, a loose Seton Hill baseball team finished practice Tuesday morning in preparation of a ninth consecutive trip to the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region tournament Thursday at West Lawn.
There, the Griffins will face Shepherd (37-14) in the opening round for the second straight season. Shepherd defeated Seton Hill, 10-3, a year ago, and the Griffins bowed out of the tournament a game later with a 5-3 loss to Winston-Salem State.
Seton Hill earned the automatic berth this season by winning the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference for the second consecutive year.
But will this be a different outcome for the Griffins than their trip to Jamestown, N.Y., in 2017?
“Our mindset has to be different, and I think it will,” Seton Hill coach Marc Marizzaldi said. “Last year we won the PSAC, went 4-0, and I think we were content with that. We rolled into the regional thinking as the PSAC champion, teams would be scared of us and we could roll over people, and we realized quickly that wasn't the case and we went 0-2.
“That's something that has not left the minds of our players. I know they will not take Shepherd or the rest of the competition lightly in the regional. We definitely have something to prove in the NCAA Tournament this year.”
Seton Hill (31-20) played almost a flawless tournament in winning the PSAC title over the weekend in Johnstown. The Griffins were involved in two 10-run rule games, opened with an 8-1 victory against reigning NCAA champion West Chester and finished off with a solid 5-1 victory against Millersville early Sunday morning.
“We didn't play our best baseball the entire season,” Marizzaldi said. “We waited for the postseason, and things started to click. I don't think you can ask for a more dominant performance in the tournament.
“It really wasn't just one player or one aspect of the game. We were phenomenal defensively. We made one error the entire tournament, and these were things that haunted us all season. We hit with runners in scoring position, and our pitching was up and down during the season and we got fantastic pitching the entire tournament.”
Seton Hill only used five pitchers in four games, and 2017 MVP Kenny Wells, the top relief pitcher, wasn't needed.
Four of the teams in the PSAC tournament — West Chester, Millersville, Mercyhurst and Bloomsburg — are in the region. The other is Charleston, which upset Shepherd in the Mountain East Conference final.
Seton Hill is riding a 10-game winning streak after sputtering early in the season.
“I don't know if we put too much pressure on ourselves with all the expectations,” Seton Hill shortstop Tyler Sullivan said. “We put our faith in each other and played for one another and it paid off.
“Everyone played great. We kind of went in there to go out and have fun and have no regrets. We have great chemistry. We knew if we pushed the stone that our good play would come out. We brought it out last weekend.”
Sullivan was named the PSAC tournament MVP. Pitcher Perry Dellavalle also was solid on the mound.
He earned a win over West Chester and notched a save in the championship game against Millersville. He lost to West Chester earlier in the season.
“It was something special,” Dellavalle said. “You never get a chance to go against the defending national champions twice in a season. I got my second shot at them, and I took advantage of it.”
Marizzaldi was sporting a T-shirt with the numbers 484.18 printed on it, which represents the mileage between Seton Hill and the USA Baseball Complex in Cary, N.C., the site of the Division II World Series.
“It's been our motto for the past five years,” Marizzaldi said. “It's a reminder what our goal is. For us to go that extra mile or two to get to Cary is really about taking care of business at the regional.”