ROME, N.Y. – It was a long and grueling Saturday for the Gallaudet University baseball team on the road at the 2011 North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) West Division tournament hosted by SUNYIT at Larry DeLutis Field. In the end the Bison played three nine-inning games, in over a 12-hour span, broke a 112 year old program record for wins in a season but back-to-back losses ended their season.
Gallaudet (18-24), the third-seed of the four-team double elimination tournament, won its first game with a 3-1 victory over second-seed Penn St.-Abington. The early morning game started at 8:30 a.m. but the win allowed the Bison to rest until a 3:30 p.m. showdown with fourth-seed Penn St.-Berks, who upset top-seed SUNYIT 8-6 in the other first round game. GU led early against Berks (17-19) but the Nittany Lions scored a run or more in the final six innings to advance to Sunday's championship round with an 8-2 win. The Bison had to quickly turn around and go up against Abington in a rematch game at 6:30 p.m. Abington eliminated the host Wildcats with a 6-4 win. Gallaudet led for the majority of the game 2-1 and later 4-2 before Abington scored the game's final three runs late to eliminate the Bison 5-4.
Abington (20-19) will have to beat Berks twice on Sunday to win the NEAC West Division championship. Regardless if Berks wins or losses on Sunday it will advance to next weekend's NEAC/North Atlantic Conference (NAC) championship being hosted by Castleton State College in Vermont for a chance to earn the conference's automatic bid into the 2011 NCAA Division III baseball tournament. Abington is not eligible for postseason play because it is still in its provisional stage with the NCAA.
The Bison set the program record for wins in a season with their 3-1 win over Penn St.-Abington to officially give Gallaudet 17 wins. The old mark of 16 wins in a season was set in 1899 when that Gallaudet team went 16-4 and faced the likes of the U.S. Naval Academy, Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins University and Maryland Agricultural College now known as the University of Maryland along with local high school and club teams. The Bison final record of 18-24 is with an asterisk as its second game of the year, a 13-4 loss at Wesley College on February 19, was later forfeited by the Wolverines but for record purposes it is still a loss in eyes of the NCAA. The 17 wins is the most in one season for Gallaudet coach Curtis Pride, now in his third season at the helm.
In the first game,Pride gave the ball to junior pitcher William Chapman (Los Angeles, Calif.) and the right-hander went out and threw a complete game gem. Chapman allowed a run in the first inning and then pitched eight scoreless innings as he got stronger as the game went on. He recorded four of his seven strikeouts over the final three innings including striking out the final two batters of the game. Chapman (2-5) earned his first win since March 5 as he allowed one run, nine hits, walked two and struck out seven. This was Chapman's first complete game nine inning contest this season.
Gallaudet got on the board in the first inning when sophomore shortstop Tommy Barksdale (Brookeville, Md.) led off with a double off Nittany Lion starting pitcher Matt McCallister (4-3). He scored moments later when freshman catcher Casey Hicks (Henderson, Nev.) hit a double. The Bison regained the lead in the top of the fifth when Barksdale (3-for-5, two doubles) singled home sophomore outfielder Yuri Johnston (Greensboro, N.C.). Then a passed ball brought home freshman second baseman Jordan Walters (Anaheim, Calif.) to give GU a 3-1 lead. That would be all Chapman needed to pick up the win and move the Bison into the afternoon game against Penn St.-Berks.
Gallaudet was the home team against fourth-seed Berks as the winner would advance to Sunday's championship round. GU got on the scoreboard in the third inning when Barksdale hit his third double of the day and scored on a RBI single by senior Zane Noschese (Pittsburgh, Pa.). Berks tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth only to watch the Buff and Blue regain control of the game with three straight hits. Freshman third baseman Chris Guinn (McLoud, Okla.) singled and junior first baseman Ryan Hastings (Cherry Valley, Mass.) followed with a double and then Walters singled home Guinn but Hastings was thrown out at the plate from a throw from center field.
Berks would finally get to freshman starting pitcher DJ Travaglini (Plaistow, N.H.) as the Nittany Lions scored two runs in fifth, one in the sixth and seventh innings to end the lefthander's day. Travaglini (2-2) allowed five runs on 11 hits, walked four and struck out one in seven innings of work. Noschese relieved the rookie and pitched the final two innings where he allowed three runs (two earned) off four hits and struck out one.
Berks shortstop Nick Vitelli led the offense as he went 4-for-5 with three doubles, two RBI and one run while second baseman Geraldo Garcia was a perfect 3-for-3, one run and two RBI. Ryan Tantala (3-0) pitched the complete game for Berks as he allowed two runs, 12 hits, walked four and struck out five.
The 8-2 loss forced the Bison to turn around and play a third game in the late evening against Abington. The Nittany Lions, the home team of the elimination game, scored a run in the second inning before Gallaudet responded with two in the third. Chapman hit one of his two doubles and two Abington errors allowed the Bison to get on the scoreboard. Abington later tied the game at 2-2 with a run in the bottom of the fifth.
GU took its first lead of the game when it scored two runs in the top of the seventh off Abington starting pitcher Anthony DiVincenzo. Noschese led off with a single and then scored on Chapman's double to give the Bison a 3-2 lead. Three batters later sophomore Layton Seeber (Champaign, Ill.) singled home Chapman to increase the Gallaudet advantage. Guinn followed with a double to place runners at second and third with two outs. That hit ended the day for DiVincenzo as he gave way to Robert Morak (3-0) who got freshman Tyler Crace (Westfield, Ind.) to ground out and end the inning. Gallaudet left 13 runners on base in the loss.
Two straight singles started the bottom half of the seventh for the Nittany Lions and moments later a single by designated hitter Enrique Meletiche scored two runs and knotted the game at four. The Nittany Lions stranded runners at second and third as Hastings (3-9) picked up one of his three strikeouts in the game to end the inning.
In the eighth, Walters led off with a single against Morak and would move around to third base when freshman William Bissell (Brewer, Maine) stepped to the plate with two outs. Morak got out of the jam when Bissell flew out to right field. Bissell, the NEAC West Division Player of the Year, went a combined 3-for-13 in the three games on Saturday.
Abington led off the bottom of the ninth inning with a single by outfielder Kevin Szafranski. Lead-off hitter Dustin Kology followed and reached base on an error by Guinn as Szafranski scampered around the bases and scored the game-winning run to end Gallaudet's season.