Greater Allegheny's incredible run ends in USCAA title game
Penn State Greater Allegheny faced a monumental task when it lost the opening game of the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Small College World Series and had to make its way through the losers' bracket.
Game after game, the Lions somehow found a way to win until they pulled off an incredible run of seven consecutive victories, including a 10-inning decision over University of Cincinnati-Clermont College, the last team standing in the winners' bracket. That set up a winner-take-all final against the Cougars.
Playing nine games in four days, including three Thursday, finally took its toll, though, as Cincinnati-Clermont overcame an early three-run deficit for a 6-3 win to capture the school's first national championship.
“It was a remarkable performance by our young men because they played three games and 26 innings,” Penn State Greater Allegheny coach Jim Chester said. “They deserve all the credit in the world, and we won seven elimination games in a row. Unbelievable.”
Greater Allegheny (35-17), which was attempting to become the first host team to win since Florida College in 2004, came into the tournament as the No. 5 seed and promptly lost to Selma (Ala.) University in its opening game at Pullman Park in Butler. What followed was an odyssey in which it won seven consecutive games, including Thursday against top-seeded Apprentice and No. 3 Cincinnati-Clermont, just to get into the championship game.
“We did not expect to play Penn State. We fully expected to get Apprentice, and we knew exactly how to play them because they're us, and they play the same kind of ball,” Cincinnati-Clermont coach Jack Harbison said. “You never want to play the host team in the playoffs. And that's a good team.”
Greater Allegheny jumped out to a 3-0 lead as Mike Visloski drove in runs in the first and second innings. After the second Visloski hit, however, Harbison yanked starting pitcher Joey Wahl and replaced him with Ryan Beard, who had tossed an 86-pitch complete-game shutout Wednesday against Apprentice.
All Beard did was throw 131 pitches in eight innings, scatter seven hits and not allow a run. He was named the tournament MVP.
Twice Harbison went to the mound and appeared ready to take Beard out of the game, but both times the pitcher waved him back to the dugout.
“The first time I thought he got spiked, and the other time the ball hit off him,” Harbison said. “That's just remarkable. Every inning I would ask him if he was all right, and he would just say, ‘Don't you take me out. Don't even try to get the ball.' ”
Even though Greater Allegheny lost in the championship game, it was still a historic run. The Lions won 20 of their final 23 games this season after opening 15-14. It was the best finish in school history, eclipsing the third-place finish the team had in 2011. Chester won his 200th career game against Cincinnati-Clermont in the semifinals.
“... Hopefully our guys will take this with them,” Chester said. “I told them that I will never, ever forget this season, and I don't think any of them will either.”