Baldwin product McCarthy has big junior year on Seton Hill baseball team
Pat McCarthy had a solid season for the Seton Hill University baseball team as a sophomore in 2012. He hit .275 that year, and emerged as a steady glove at second base for the Griffins.
Entering this season, those around the program expected to see steady improvement from the Baldwin High School graduate, but no one expected quite this.
As a junior this year, McCarthy hit .397 and had an OPS of 1.076, and was one of the top players on a Seton Hill squad that went 42-17 and was one win away from qualifying for the NCAA Division II College World Series.
“After Pat's sophomore year, we kind of knew what he was capable of, but it's hard to predict a guy going from .275 to .397,” said Seton Hill head coach Marc Marizzaldi, also a Baldwin graduate.
McCarthy also led the team in fielding percentage (.947), doubles (22) and stolen bases (35), and was second in hits (79), third in walks (18) and fourth in RBI (46).
He was named to the American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings All-Atlantic Region second team.
“This year, he just took his game to a whole different level, both offensively and defensively,” Marizzaldi said.
McCarthy expected to improve this year, but even he admitted the level of improvement was dramatic.
“I was expecting to do a little better, and I made a huge jump,” he said. “A lot of that had to do with my mental preparation. A lot of the game is mental.”
As well as McCarthy did individually, McCarthy and Marizzaldi were hoping for more team-wise, even with the great record. After rambling through a highly successful regular season, the team's play slipped a bit in the postseason.
The Griffins went 2-2 in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament, then appeared to right things in the early stages of the Division II Atlantic Regional Tournament.
Seton Hill won its first three games, before dropping two to Shippensburg. The Griffins would have moved on to the Division II World Series had they won their last game against Shippensburg.
That's why both Marizzaldi and McCarthy are focused on next year.
The team is graduating a handful of “impact players” from this year's club, explained Marizzaldi, who is counting on McCarthy to fill some of that void.
Marizzaldi is looking for McCarthy to make more big contributions at the plate and in the field, but the coach also is looking for him to take on those additional responsibilities that come with being a senior.
“I'm looking for him to be a leader,” Marizzaldi said.
And McCarthy is well-aware of those expectations.
“I'll embrace that role,” he said.
McCarthy likely will embrace a “lead-by-example” style.
“He's very quiet,” Marizzaldi said. “He doesn't get too high, and he doesn't get too low. Sometimes you can't tell if he's excited, depressed; he's always the same.
“In baseball, that's good. It's good to have a calm demeanor and never get too high or too low.”
McCarthy's steady approach will be crucial as Seton Hill continues its ascent into the upper-stratosphere of Division II programs.
The Griffins' baseball program was formed just 10 years ago, but in that decade Marizzaldi has seen his teams improve year-in, and year-out to the point where Seton Hill is now a perennially competitive squad.
In fact, the Griffins have qualified for the NCAA tournament four straight years and, for the first time in school history, they had back-to-back seasons with at least 40 wins in 2012 and 2013.
“Back-to-back 40-win seasons is pretty rare,” Marizzaldi said. “That's really hard to do.”
However, the ultimate goal remains: making it through the regional portion of the NCAA tournament and qualifying for the Division II College World Series.
That's a realistic goal, but one that may have seemed a pipe dream a decade ago.
“The program is a lot different than it was 10 years ago,” Marizzaldi said. “We have a lot of guys receiving big awards; we'll have high-profile draft picks and the Division II player of the year. That's a lot of individual recognition, and is reflective of the kind of kids we're getting here.
“It has taken a decade to get us to this point. I really think we're considered one of the elite programs in the country right now.”
Brian Knavish is a freelance writer.