WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Gallaudet University baseball team controlled its own destiny on an unseasonably warm Monday as the Bison hosted Penn St.-Berks for a North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) doubleheader at Hoy Field. A clean sweep would clinch third-place in the NEAC West Division for the Bison while one win would secure a spot in the postseason. Late inning heroics in both games helped the Bison defeat the Nittany Lions 9-8 and 6-5.
The wins improve Gallaudet's overall record to 17-21 and 8-6 in conference play, tied with Penn St.-Berks (15-18, 8-6). GU holds the tiebreaker against Berks and earned the third seed in the upcoming NEAC West Division tournament that will be hosted by top-seed SUNYIT this Friday and Saturday. The Bison will face second-seed Penn St.-Abington on Friday, April 29. No game time has been announced at this time. SUNYIT will go up against Berks in the other semifinal. GU will be making its first postseason appearance since 2007 when the Bison played in the first round of the Capital Athletic Conference (CAC) tournament. The CAC allowed all teams in its postseason from 1991-2007.
GU wrote history on Monday with the two wins as the Bison reached 16 wins in a season for the first time since 1899 when the Bison club went 16-4. Before the turn of the century Gallaudet faced 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 record of 17-21 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. One more win by the Bison would officially rewrite the record books to reflect the all-time win total.
The Bison rallied from four runs down in the bottom of the sixth inning of the second game to score five runs, take the lead and shut the door on the Nittany Lions.
Freshman catcher Casey Hicks (Henderson, Nev.) delivered the key hit when he launched a double to left field to empty the bases as three runs came around to score to give GU its first lead since a 1-0 advantage it held for the first four innings.
Junior Ryan Hastings (Cherry Valley, Mass.) closed out the game as he came in to relieve sophomore Layton Seeber (Champaign, Ill.). Hastings retired the Lions in order with one fly out, one foul pop up and a strikeout to record his second save of the season. Seeber (1-3) picked up his first collegiate win with the Bison as he pitched one inning of relief for senior starter Zane Noschese (Pittsburgh, Pa.).
Penn St.-Berks first baseman Michael Werner (2-for-4, four RBI) had a two-run double in the fifth inning and a two-run single in the sixth to pace the Nittany Lion offense. Michael Ference (3-2) suffered the loss as he pitched the sixth inning where he allowed five runs on two hits, walked two, hit two batters and struck out one Bison.
Gallaudet freshman William Bissell (Brewer, Maine) had the defensive play of the game when he gunned down Jerel Elliot as he tried to score off a single by Rich Schlamowitz to center field. Bissell fielded the ball off one hop and threw a missle to home plate where Hicks applied the tag to ring up Elliot and end the first inning.
In the first game, the Bison built an early 8-1 lead only to watch that evaporate over the course of the final four innings. Late game heroics occurred once more with "Casey at the bat." Hicks stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh with the game tied 8-8 and two outs. An inside pitch made by Schlamowitz (2-1) clipped Hicks on his elbow to award him first base and force home the game-winning run. Schlamowitz faced four batters in his relief appearance where he walked one, hit two and got one out. Hastings (3-8) picked up the win for the Bison as he retired his two batters he pitched to in the top of the seventh.
Gallaudet batted around in the first inning as the Buff and Blue scored six runs off Nittany Lion starter Zach Guiles. Junior William Chapman (Los Angles, Calif.) had a two-run triple, the third at-bat of the game, as the Bison got on the scoreboard quickly. The first four batters reached and scored for GU. Freshman second baseman Jordan Walters (Anaheim, Calif.) had a two-run single to help stake the Bison to a 6-0 lead. That lead later increased to 8-1 after three innings when Gallaudet scored two in the third off the bat of sophomore shortstop Tommy Barksdale (Brookeville, Md.), who singled home freshman Chris Guinn (McLoud, Okla.) and Walters.
Penn St.-Berks scored three runs in the fourth, one in the fifth and sixth and two in the seventh to tie the game at 8-8. Outfielder Aaron Wilkins (3-for-4, three RBI) drove in three of the runs including the two in the seventh with a double to left-center field off Guinn.
Gallaudet will close out its regular-season schedule tomorrow (Tuesday, April 26) with a home non-conference game with McDaniel College (11-19) at 3 p.m.