The Indiana University of Pennsylvania baseball program waited 34 years between appearances in the NCAA Division II tournament.

With a pair of wins over the weekend, the Crimson Hawks assured themselves less than a week’s wait until their next one.

IUP closed out Seton Hill with a 7-4 victory Sunday in the third game of the best-of-three Atlantic Super Regional series at the Crimson Hawks’ Owen J. Daugherty Field to clinch the university’s first-ever spot in the NCAA Division II College World Series.

Less than 24 hours earlier, IUP came from behind to defeat Seton Hill, 9-8, Saturday afternoon to set up the winner-take-all third game to close out the Memorial Day weekend showdown between the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division foes.

“Literally a dream come true,” said Crimson Hawks fifth-year senior Harrison Pontoli, a Beaver graduate, following his team’s first appearance and victory in the Atlantic Super Regional in school history. “Since I got here, I could never dream of this moment. It’s more amazing than I ever really thought it would be. It’s so surreal right now. I can’t believe it’s real.

“Going 2-35 to this,” he added of his team’s record during his sophomore season in 2021. “It’s a dream come true.”

IUP (38-16) will be one of eight teams competing in the NCAA Division II College World Series in Cary, N.C. The Crimson Hawks are set to open College World Series play against Point Loma (45-11-1) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

IUP coach Steve Kline celebrates with Crimson Hawks sophomore Jason Madrak after receiving his celebratory Gatorade dump following their team’s Game 3 victory against Seton Hill in the Atlantic Super Regional. (Courtesy of Mia Goodlin/IUP Athletic Communications)

The San Diego, Calif., university won the West Super Regional in three games by sweeping a doubleheader Saturday against Cal State Monterey Bay.

“We haven’t accomplished what we wanted yet,” said third-year IUP coach Steve Kline. “We still want to see where we stand with some other teams. We’re going to go see some arms now and some teams that are good, but you know what, I just want to see if we battle. Are we content with what we did right now or are we going to see if we can win some games?

“The PSAC’s a really good conference,” he added. “This whole region is pretty good. I’m not going to ever knock it. I think we can go and we can still do some damage. I think we can do a really good job down there.”

While the Crimson Hawks’ postseason run has seen the program win its first NCAA tournament game since 1988 and reset its single-season win total, things ended in disappointing fashion for Seton Hill (41-17) in the Atlantic Super Regional for the second consecutive season.

PSAC East champion Millersville swept the Griffins in the Atlantic Super Regional a year ago. This time around, Seton Hill won the first game of the super regional against IUP, 5-4, Friday, but failed to close out the series Saturday and Sunday.

“One thing that we did really well this year was we separated this team all by itself, that last year had nothing to do with it,” said Seton Hill coach Marc Marizzaldi, now in his 20th season at the Catholic Greensburg university. “That’s why I’m so proud that we got back here. It wasn’t talked about we have to get back. We said, ‘No, we’re a different team. It’s different competition.’ That’s what I really want. I want each year, our team to have its own identity and I think our team really thrived in that and wrote their own story this year.”

Seton Hill graduate student third baseman Jack Oberdorf, a Greensburg Salem product, wrote an impressive story during the Atlantic Super Regional. He went 8 for 12 over the three games at the plate, while also collecting four RBIs.

“It’s tough,” said Oberdorf, who hit a team-best .364 this season with 51 RBIs, 12 doubles and eight home runs. “It was a battle the whole series. It felt like it was back and forth each game. The momentum was up for grabs the whole time. They came out on top and that’s a tough feeling right now, but looking back on the season it was a great experience and not much I would change.”

Freshman Owen Henne, a Pine-Richland graduate, also excelled for the Griffins during the super regional. He collected three hits with four RBIs, which included a three-RBI triple Sunday.

Greensburg Salem graduate Noah Sweeney also collected four hits over the super regional for Seton Hill, while Upper St. Clair product Max Mandler had four hits with three RBIs.

Senior pitcher Andino Vecchiola, a Laurel Highlands graduate, earned the Griffins’ lone win of the series. He allowed two runs, on four hits, over three innings to earn the victory, while senior Michael Marinchak, a Ligonier Valley product, earned the save with 1⅓ scoreless innings with three strikeouts.

“I’m just blessed to have coached those guys the last four years,” Marizzaldi said. “Their impact has been seen in the wins and losses and the championships and all that, but they’ve impacted me and the rest of our team so much. It’s a real legacy left by those 12 seniors.”

The weekend, though, belonged to IUP.

Pontoli collected five hits with an RBI in the super regional, while third baseman Peyton Johnson had six hits and two RBIs.

Sophomore shortstop David Kessler, a Bethel Park graduate, had three hits and an RBI over the super regional.

The Indiana University of Pennsylvania baseball team celebrates Sunday after defeating Seton Hill in Game 3 of the Atlantic Super Regional to clinch the first spot in the NCAA Division II College World Series in school history. (Courtesy of Mia Goodlin/IUP Athletic Communications)

“It’s unbelievable,” Kessler said. “Even from my senior year of high school, coming up to here, this has been the talk. We finally got there. We did it, but it’s not over. We’re going to keep going. This is a great team. Seton Hill always puts up a fight. We can’t stop or be complacent against them, but this team, our team, has so much fight and I can’t be more proud of them.”

With the score tied at 4-4 in the fifth inning Sunday, another sophomore delivered the decisive blow for the Crimson Hawks.

Designated hitter Elijah Dunn, a Norwin product, provided the game-winning run, as his RBI double off Seton Hill pitcher Jon McCullough, a Seneca Valley graduate, drove in Pontoli. He later scored on a single by first baseman Brady Yard to lengthen the IUP advantage to, 6-4.

Reliever Bryce Devan picked up the Game 3 mound win for IUP. He racked up four strikeouts over 3⅔ scoreless innings.

“From winning a regional to winning a super regional to going to a College World Series, we are taking this step by step,” said Dunn, who was 2 for 2 with an RBI and two runs scored in Game 3. “The first goal last year was to make the playoffs, which we did. We lost in the semifinals, but this year our goal was to win the PSAC. We didn’t do that, but we knew we could win the regional and win the super regional. Now we’re going to the College World Series.

And Kline said he has confidence his team is not done with its record-breaking season yet.

“You come here, you have a chance to be a World Series champion, to go to the World Series and play in it,” he said. “That’s what we preach to these guys. Hopefully we have some kids who have the D-I talent, but yet they step back and they say, ‘You know what? I’m going to be a proud IUP guy and come on out and win some games for us.”

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