For the second weekend in a row, Seton Hill needed two consecutive wins on the same day to stave off elimination in the NCAA Division II baseball postseason.
The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference tournament champion Griffins, who won two elimination games in the Atlantic Region final six days earlier, finally ran out of gas this weekend.
Needing a win to force a decisive third game in the Atlantic Super Regional series, No. 2 seed Seton Hill dropped an 11-6 decision to top-seeded Millersville Saturday afternoon at Cooper Park. The Griffins fell at the hands of the host Marauders, 9-4, Friday night in the first contest of the super regional series.
“We were playing at such a high level, a really, really high level of baseball for quite a long time,” Seton Hill coach Marc Marizzaldi said. “I was worried things would even out a little bit and they did. Millersville played outstanding. They hit so well with runners in scoring position and we didn’t. I thought that was a big difference.
“We made such a run the last two weeks in those tournaments and we came up a little bit short this week.”
PSAC West Division regular-season champion Seton Hill (48-13) was attempting to advance to its third NCAA Division II World Series in school history. Instead, Millersville (45-8), winner of the PSAC East Division title, will advance to the Division II World Series, which begins next Saturday in Cary, N.C.
Seton Hill had to play nine games over the past two weeks en route to winning the PSAC tournament and its region. Millersville, which was upset by Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the first round of the PSAC tournament, played just four in the run up to the super regional.
“It was a magical season with so many individual, standout performances,” said Marizzaldi, whose team set a school record for wins this season. “It’ll go down as one of the best seasons in program history.”
Despite taking a pair of tough losses, things were looking up for the Griffins early in each game of the super regional.
Seton Hill took a 2-0 lead through 3 1/2 innings Friday night before surrendering nine unanswered runs. The Griffins then ran out to a 4-1 advantage after three innings Saturday before being outscored, 10-1, to find themselves staring at an 11-5 deficit going into the bottom of the seventh inning.
“We played nine very high-intensity, a lot-on-the-line baseball games in the last two weeks and those guys only played four games in the last two weeks,” Marizzaldi said. “Whether that played a factor or not, I’m not sure, but perhaps they were a little bit fresher coming into this weekend.”
One of the top pitching staffs in the country, Seton Hill certainly worked its fair share of innings during its postseason run.
Starting pitcher Aidan Layton fell to 8-2 on the season in taking the loss for the Griffins Saturday. He conceded five runs on seven hits, with six strikeouts and one walk over 4 2/3 innings.
North Allegheny graduate Caiden Wood was also on the hook for four runs on four hits over one inning in the loss, while fellow reliever Blake Barker allowed two runs on three hits with four strikeouts.
A night earlier, Seneca Valley graduate Jon McCullough took the loss in the first game of the series. The junior right-hander, who fell to 5-2 on the season, allowed six runs on eight hits with four strikeouts and one walk in 4 1/3 innings.
Ligonier Valley graduate Michael Marinchak allowed one run in one inning Friday, while fellow reliever Derek Fravel conceded a pair of runs in an inning.
Heading into the super regional, Seton Hill’s pitching staff was third in Division II nationally with a 3.29 ERA. The Griffins were also tops in the nation with a 3.70 strikeout-to-walk ratio, a 1.19 WHIP and 12 shutouts over that same time span.
Seton Hill also ran through the postseason without its ace Kevin Vaupel, a 2019 South Park graduate. The senior left-hander was 6-1 in nine starts with a 2.04 ERA and a team-high 68 strikeouts and three complete games before sustaining a season-ending UCL injury in April.
“I think it was much more a credit to Millersville’s offense than it was our pitching,” Marizzaldi said.
Outfielders Bren Taylor and Sam Morris led the Marauders at the plate Saturday with three hits each. Morris also had four RBIs for Millersville, which received two hits each from Jimmy Losh, Keegan Soltis, Justin Taylor and Matthew Williams.
Sophomore right-hander Garet Blankenbiller picked up the mound win Saturday for Millersville. He worked two scoreless innings, conceding just one hit and three walks.
Junior catcher Cole Houser led the Marauders on Friday with a two-hit, three-RBI performance, while graduate student Carson Kulina earned the win on the mound, allowing just two runs over six innings.
“They’re a complete ball club,” Marizzaldi said of Millersville. “They pitch it. They’re super athletic in the field and they didn’t have an easy out anywhere in their lineup.
Shortstop Owen Sabol, a Norwin graduate, led Seton Hill at the plate Saturday. He was 4 for 5 with two runs scored and one RBI.
Senior catcher Vincenzo Rauso, a Pittsburgh Central Catholic product, was 2 for 5 with a run scored in the loss, while Hempfield graduate Joe Fiedor had two RBIs.
Montour graduate Logan Vietmeier also drove in a run Saturday, along with Upper St. Clair product Max Mandler and Greensburg Salem alum Noah Sweeney.
Third baseman Jack Oberdorf and Sabol led the Griffins at the plate Friday. Oberdorf, a Greensburg Salem product, and Sabol had two hits each. Oberdorf, Vietmeier, Mandler and Sweeney all drove in a run in the loss.
Although Seton Hill fell just short of its first World Series berth since 2021, the future remains bright for the Griffins.
Seton Hill graduates just Rauso and Vietmeier among its everyday position players. Its pitching staff will lose Wood, but returns Vaupel and McCullough atop its starting rotation.
“From year to year, I don’t know if there’s any carry over,” Marizzaldi said. “We do have a lot of players back that had good seasons this year, but that doesn’t guarantee us success next year. We had some guys that didn’t have great years last year that really stepped up and played really well this year.
“I’m just reflecting on what was arguably the best season in our program’s history and I think that’s what I want to celebrate right now before we look too far ahead.”