The Seton Hill baseball team spent much of the regular season perched atop the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division.
And there, poised atop the PSAC East, was Millersville.
The teams are now set for a showdown in the NCAA Division II national championship tournament Atlantic Super Regional.
By sweeping Mercyhurst in a pair of games Sunday in its Atlantic Region final, No. 2 Seton Hill (48-11) punched its ticket to the super regional, while across the commonwealth No. 1 seed Millersville (43-8) did its part by knocking off West Chester.
Seton Hill coach Marc Marizzaldi said he’s not surprised his Griffins will meet the Marauders with a trip to the Division II College World Series in Cary, N.C., on the line.
“Those guys at Millersville were picked Top 10 in the country, I think, pretty early on,” Marizzaldi said. “They’ve kind of held that spot throughout the season. They have a very veteran lineup. They have a lot of accomplished older guys, all-conference players, all-region players. They’ve added a couple of key pieces to their pitching staff.
“They’re going to be really, really tough,” he added. “I think they’re going to be as good as advertised for sure.”
The three-game Atlantic Super Regional series will begin at 1 p.m. Friday in Millersville, with the second game set for 11 a.m. Saturday.
Seton Hill is attempting to advance to the Division II World Series for the third time in school history. The Griffins made previous trips to the World Series in 2014 and 2021.
After winning the PSAC West Division title, the conference tournament title and now the Atlantic Region final, Marizzaldi said his team intends to stick to the basics.
“It’s just being really good at what we’re good at,” said Marizzaldi, after his team won its school record 48th game this season Sunday. “I think that’s consistent pitching, both with the starting rotation and the bullpen; outstanding defense, which we got a ton of that this past weekend; and then just some really good clutch at-bats.”
The Griffins got plenty of that in its 4-0 victory against Mercyhurst (30-17) to open play Sunday before coming back to defeat the Lakers, 12-5, at SHU Baseball Complex in Greensburg several hours later to secure their spot in the super regional.
“We put together a pretty interesting run here,” Marizzaldi said. “It’s been fun.”
Seton Hill opened its Atlantic Region run with a 14-6 victory against Shippensburg before suffering an 8-6 loss to Mercyhurst that set the Griffins on a run through the consolation bracket.
Marizzaldi’s team responded by outscoring East Stroudbsurg and Mercyhurst over the next three games, 26-9.
“In a way it’s not surprising,” Marizzaldi said of his team’s run. “I anticipated getting through that first game, and I anticipated having a really tough battle in the second game — I didn’t think we’d get walked off on a grand slam in the ninth — but I thought we had the type of team that we could respond to it. I thought if we got another crack at Mercyhurst, that we would redeem ourselves.
“This is a really, really special team we have,” he added. “I’m not surprised that they handled adversity and got through it.”
Junior left-hander Andino Vecchiolla, a Laurel Highlands graduate, got Seton Hill off to a strong start Sunday. He improved to 4-2 on the season by scattering five hits over eight scoreless innings, which included six strikeouts in the first game of the day.
Senior Jack Oberdorf, a Greensburg Salem graduate, drove in the game-winning run on a first-inning sacrifice fly. Designated hitter Blake Durham then singled in a run in the fourth inning, before first baseman Logan Vietmeier, a Montour graduate, rounded out the scoring by driving in two runs on a fielder’s choice in the fifth.
The Griffins hitters took over in the second game of the day.
Senior catcher Vincenzo Rauso, a Pittsburgh Central Catholic graduate and Gibsonia native, was 3 for 4 with a walk and three RBIs.
Vietmeier, Owen Sabol, Max Mandler and Noah Sweeney each added two hits in the victory, while lead-off hitter Jack Whalen, Rauso, Oberdorf and Sweeney also scored two runs each.
Sabol and Whalen are Norwin graduates, while Mandler is an Upper St. Clair alum, and Sweeney is a product of Greensburg Salem.
Reliever Jack Laird improved to 2-0 on the season. He became the pitcher of record with an inning of scoreless relief, while his teammates ran out to an 11-1 lead after three innings.
“We have a very dynamic offense,” Marizzaldi said. “It’s guys that can run. It’s some guys that can hit for power. I think sometimes we’re pretty potent one through nine. It’s been just a combination of pitching, defense and some timely hitting. I know that’s probably cliché with baseball, but our guys just really enjoy playing with each other and being themselves. That’s what it took for us to win the last two tournaments and that’s what we’re going to do next week.”
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