Despite loss at regional tournament, Seton Hill baseball has promising future
That's the word Seton Hill baseball coach Mark Marizzaldi used to describe his team's ouster from the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Tournament in Winston-Salem, N.C., last weekend.
After winning their first three games of the tournament, the Griffins dropped two games to Shippensburg on Sunday, bringing their season to a close.
“It's probably the toughest day I've ever had on the baseball field,” Marizzaldi said. “I felt terrible for our guys.”
The Griffins finished the season with a 42-17 record and were one win shy of clinching a berth in the NCAA Division II World Series.
Seton Hill opened play in the regionals with a 4-1 triumph over Shippensburg and continued to advance through the winner's bracket with wins against East Stroudsburg and Millersville, setting up a rematch with Shippensburg on Sunday.
“Shippensburg had one loss, and we had none,” Marizzaldi said. “They had to beat us twice, and they did.”
After putting up 25 runs in their three tournament victories, the Griffins sputtered offensively against Shippensburg, losing the first game, 10-3, then dropping the final, winner-take-all game, 3-2.
“Our pitching and defense were pretty consistent, but our offense went downhill a little bit,” Marizzaldi said. “We had to play some small ball and manufacture some runs. We just weren't able to catch up offensively.”
Seton Hill grabbed a 2-0 lead in the decisive second game against Shippensburg on a two-run single by sophomore Josh Forbes in the fifth inning.
But Shippensburg fought back to take the lead in the sixth, getting two runners on base thanks to a pair of Griffins errors. Raiders' junior Pat Kregloh followed with a three-run home run over the left-center field wall that proved to be the game-winner.
Despite the heartbreaking finish to the season, Marizzaldi delivered the same message after his team's elimination as he did at the start of the day.
“I told them I was extremely proud of their efforts just to get to that point,” Marizzaldi said. “A couple of wins or a couple of losses isn't going to change that.”
After posting back-to-back seasons with more than 40 wins, Marizzaldi is looking forward to seeing what lies ahead for his team next season.
Many of the Griffins' key contributors the past couple of years have been younger players, so much of the lineup should look the same in 2014. Only two regular starters — catcher Mike Cima and first baseman Brad Comport — will be lost to graduation.
Offensively, the team once again will be built around third baseman Nick Sell, the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year who also was named the Division II Atlantic Region player of the year. Sell, who will be a junior next year, finished the 2013 season with team highs in batting average (.431), hits (85), runs scored (65), home runs (13) and RBI (57). He was also named first-team all-region over the weekend.
Along with some promising young arms, Seton Hill's pitching staff will be anchored by two-time WVIAC Pitcher of the Year Alex Haines, who will be a senior next year. Haines was 8-2 with a 2.35 ERA and 91 strikeouts in 13 starts. He also posted four complete games.
Sophomore hurler Brett Sullivan was the Griffins' leader in wins with nine and complete games with five.
Haines, along with Cima, Pat McCarthy and Brendan Costantino, all were named second-team all-region.
According to Marizzaldi, one of the major contributing factors to Seton Hill's recent success on the diamond has been the players' dedication to the program.
“The thing about the teams from the past couple of years is the buy-in,” Marizzaldi said. “The transition from high school to college baseball is tough.
“We've sped up the learning curve, but the kids have been really receptive to it from day one.”
Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.