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Seton Hill set to open PSAC tournament

| Tuesday, April 29, 2014, 10:58 p.m.

One thing Seton Hill baseball coach Marc Marizzaldi said he learned about his team's first season in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference was how deep the pitching was.

“In the WVIAC (West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) teams had probably two good top pitchers,” Marizzaldi said. “In the PSAC, the Nos. 3 and 4 guys are good too. We're facing a lot of good pitchers.”

Seton Hill (36-14, 22-6 West) was the preseason favorite to win the Western Division and the Griffins did just that with good pitching and timely hitting late in the season. The team is ranked No. 13 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll.

The PSAC tournament begins Wednesday at Kelly Automotive Park (formerly Pullman Park) in Butler, and Seton Hill is seeded No. 1 in the West. The top team from the East is Millersville.

The tournament is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. with Mercyhurst facing West Chester. Seton Hill is slated to play Kutztown at 6:30 p.m.

Seton Hill rolled off 17 consecutive victories after starting the season 11-10.

During that stretch, the Griffins' pitching staff was dominant, allowing only 1.3 runs per game.

“Surprisingly, the pitching hasn't been as good as expected,” Marizzaldi said. “There have been guys who performed better than expected, but overall we expected more.”

Two pitchers who have been outstanding are sophomores Mike Bittel (7-2) and Jordan Fuller (4-1). The other starters are Brad Schnelle (5-2) and Brett Sullivan (7-3), while 2013 ace Alex Haines (5-2) has been moved to the bullpen.

“The other guys pitched well enough to allow us to move Alex to the pen and he has embraced it,” Marizzaldi said. “We've made some adjustments with Alex and he's pitching well. And with Jesse Cooper becoming our closer, we can shorten games in the tournament.”

Cooper, who volunteered to pitch in the winter, set Seton Hill's career saves record halfway through the season. He now has 14.

Bittel, Cooper and outfielder Cody Herald were named PSAC-West first-team all-stars. Shortstop Brendan Costantino was named to the second team while Marizzaldi was named Coach of the Year.

Seton Hill also has started hitting the more consistently. Marizzaldi said it took him 35 games to finally get a set lineup.

Herald has been the most consistent hitter. He's batting .357 with 28 RBIs and team-highs in runs scored (39), hits (57) and doubles (13). Anthony Fanelli (Hempfield) has been a pleasant surprise hitting in the two spot, batting .357 with 25 runs scored and 17 RBIs.

Catcher Chris Miller is batting .333 with a team-high 36 RBIs, and after a slow start third baseman Nick Sell is hitting .311 with 50 hits, a team-high seven home runs and 34 RBIs.

“We're playing good baseball and we swung the bats well against California,” Marizzaldi said. “We've been able to overcome some key injuries.”

Sidelined this season were infielder Pat McCarthy, pitcher Bob Carbaugh and catcher Josh Forbes.

Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at pschofield@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.

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