It’s hard to imagine a tougher beginning to the college careers of Harrison Pontoli and Mark Edeburn.

Pontoli, a Beaver graduate, and Edeburn, a Peters Township product, had their freshman seasons at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 2020 prematurely ended by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pair then saw their first full campaign in 2021 result in a 2-35 record and the departure of Crimson Hawks coach Anthony Rebyanski.

“Not everybody from every class makes it to be a senior,” Edeburn said. “Harrison and myself are the only two from our class that are left that made it from our freshman year.”

Now Edeburn and Pontoli have helped lead IUP to a position it has not been in for 34 years.

After rattling off two wins in their second consecutive appearance in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference tournament last week, the Crimson Hawks were awarded an at-large bid in the NCAA Division II tournament.

“We’ve been through it all,” Pontoli said. “It’s just great that me and him could persevere through it and each year keep getting better.”

No. 5 seed IUP (33-15) will open the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1990 when it faces fourth-seeded Charleston, W.Va. (43-8), in an Atlantic Regional first-round game at 11 a.m. Thursday at West Chester’s Serpico Stadium.

“We just want to make the longest run we can … and just keep seeing this program headed in the right direction,” Pontoli said. “We just love where it’s headed right now. It’s unbelievable that we were 2-35 a couple years back.”

The Crimson Hawks finished second in the PSAC West Division regular-season standings, while the Golden Eagles won the Mountain East Conference championship for the third consecutive year. The winner of Thursday’s game will advance to face West Chester (43-7), the Atlantic Region’s top seed.

“It’s cool to advance this far into the season and just get to keep playing as long as we can,” Edeburn said. “It’s a pretty cool feeling to be on this side of history like that.”

IUP has made short work of changing its fortunes in each of the past three seasons under coach Steve Klein.

IUP sophomore Elijah Dunn, a Norwin graduate, has hit four home runs with 20 RBIs this season. (Courtesy of Mia Goodlin/IUP Athletic Communications)

In his first season, Klein engineered a 25-win turnaround, leading his new team to a 27-22 record. The Crimson Hawks then qualified for the PSAC tournament in 2023 before finishing second in the conference West Division regular-season standings this spring.

IUP defeated NCAA tournament qualifier Millersville and Shippensburg in the PSAC tournament last week.

“Everything is a new stepping stone for us to figure out what’s going on,” Klein said. “We just keep telling ourselves every year we just want to get a little bit better. We are happy with what we’re doing. We still think we have a good chance to prove that we’re better than what people thought. We have a chance to do some damage in this tournament and try to win the thing.”

And Klein is set to turn to Edeburn to keep IUP’s postseason run nearly four decades in the making intact.

The 6-foot-5, 190-pound right-handed graduate student is scheduled to get the ball for the Crimson Hawks’ NCAA opener. In 11 starts, he has a 6-1 record, a 3.53 ERA and 46 strikeouts with just 14 walks.

“Mark’s been kind of one of our stepping stones when we got here,” Klein said. “He’s a guy that we kind of leaned on. He’s produced and he loves playing and he loves the competition.

“He’s got a good split,” Klein added. “He’s got a good little fastball, good slider. If he locates, we’re good.”

IUP also has another solid starter in sophomore right-hander Derrick Shields.

The Mt. Lebanon product — whose brother, David, is a Blue Devils senior and one of the WPIAL’s most heralded Major League pitching prospects in recent history — has a 6-4 record with a 4.82 ERA and a team-high 57 strikeouts with only 11 walks.

“He’s very mellow,” Klein said of Shields. “He just knows how to pitch.”

IUP is led at the plate by Pontoli, who has hit a team-high seven home runs with 36 RBIs.

Junior Brady Yard also has a team-high .339 batting average, while sophomore Ricardo Aponte is hitting .325 and Andrew Sicinski and Robert Carfagno are hitting .314 and .303, respectively.

“Postseason baseball is just different,” Pontoli said. “You’re way more locked in for every single pitch.

“You can just feel that new sense of every little detail matters.”

Edeburn said he is excited to see what new steps his team can make in the NCAA tournament.

“It’s been a real blessing to be around it and be around this team that’s come together since Klein took over,” he said. “It’s cool to see his recruiting classes grow up and see who lasts.”

Seton Hill senior first baseman Eli Snider, a South Fayette graduate, is hitting .300 with four home runs this season. (Courtesy of Dymphena Clark/Seton Hill athletics)

Griffins advance to NCAA tournament

PSAC West Division regular-season champion Seton Hill received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and longtime Griffins coach Marc Marizzaldi’s team will have a shot at redemption against the team that ended its season a year ago.

No. 6 seed Seton Hill (36-14) is scheduled to open Atlantic Regional play with a first-round game against third-seeded Millersville (37-14) at 2 p.m. Thursday at East Stroudsburg’s Creekview Park.

The perennial PSAC East Division powerhouse Marauders swept the Griffins in last season’s Atlantic Super Regional. Seton Hill won a school record 48 games a year ago and fell just short of advancing to the NCAA Division II World Series for the third time in school history.

The winner of Thursday’s postseason rematch between Seton Hill and Millersville will face the winner of a first-round contest between No. 2 East Stroudsburg (41-12) and seventh seed Frostburg State (37-14). First pitch of that game is set for 11 a.m. Thursday.

Graduate student Jack Oberdorf, a Greensburg Salem product, leads the Griffins at the plate. He is hitting a team-leading .357 with a 1.010 OPS and a .573 slugging percentage.

Oberdorf leads Seton Hill with eight home runs, three triples and 46 RBIs.

Brothers Owen and Max Mandler, who are each Upper St. Clair graduates, have also unfurled fantastic seasons at the plate for the Griffins.

Freshman Owen Mandler is hitting .319 with 10 doubles, five home runs and 30 RBIs. Max, a junior, has a .314 batting average with seven doubles, six home runs, 23 RBIs and a team-leading 39 runs scored.

Sophomore outfielder Jack Whalen, a Norwin product, provides a unique dimension atop the Seton Hill lineup with a team-high 31 steals.  

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at

John Santa

John is a copy editor and page designer at the Post-Gazette, but he's currently on strike. Email him at