Seton Hill baseball team relishes 1st trip to NCAA World Series
The Seton Hill baseball team enters a new journey Sunday in Cary, N.C.
By defeating Millersville on Sunday to capture the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region tournament, Seton Hill (40-15) qualified for its first trip to the NCAA World Series.
The 2006 Griffins participated in the NAIA World Series.
But this is different, and according to veteran coach Marc Marizzaldi, his team had a much rougher road.
“In 2006, we only had to beat a couple teams to qualify,” Marizzaldi said. “Because we didn't win the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Tournament, we had to receive an at-large bid where the committee looked at our entire body of work during the season.”
Once in the tournament, the Griffins had to beat a couple outstanding pitchers in Dan Altavilla of Mercyhurst and Paul Hvozdovic of Shepherd. Both were a combined 20-0.
“We had a difficult path,” Marizzaldi said. “We beat two pitchers who were all-region. Our hitters stepped up in those games. We were very determined not to let what happened in 2013 happen again.”
Seton Hill defeated Mercyhurst and Shepherd, 4-1. The bats came alive in the third game of the tournament, an 8-2 victory over Millersville. In the championship, Seton Hill pitcher Brett Sullivan tossed an eight-hit shutout and was named tournament MVP.
The Griffins were in the same position last year after winning their first three games but dropped a doubleheader to Shippensburg.
That title easily could have been shared by the Seton Hill pitching staff, which allowed only four runs the entire tournament. Starters Mike Bittel, Brad Schnelle and Jordan Fuller, along with relievers Jesse Cooper and Alex Haines, pitched well.
“We didn't have a lot of strikeouts, but the defense was strong behind them,” Marizzaldi said. “We committed one error the entire tournament. We made a lot of plays that don't show up in the box score.”
Seton Hill opens the World Series 1 p.m. Sunday against Minnesota State-Mankato (45-9), which is making its third consecutive trip to Cary. Minnesota State is the Central Region winner.
“Things are a lot different now than it was in 2006,” Marizzaldi said. “We're deeper on the mound. We have some unfinished business. The loss in the PSAC Tournament gave us motivation.
“Just to qualify for the region was big. We were one of six of 37 teams selected from our region. Now we're one of eight left. The NCAA is more challenging.”
Paul Schofield is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Schofield_Trib.