YORK, Pa. – The No. 1 seeded York College baseball team held off a ninth-inning rally by St. Mary's College (Md.) to earn a 7-6 victory in the opening round of the 2014 CAC Baseball Tournament on Wednesday afternoon at Jaquet Field.
With one out and runners on first and third in the top of the ninth, reliever Dan McNamara (Southampton, N.J./Seneca) entered the game and with one pitch was able to get the 6-4-3 game-ending double play to preserve the victory for the Spartans (21-5).
The Seahawks (18-18), the conference leader in sacrifice hits, played to their strength in the early innings, using sacrifice bunts in the second and third innings to score runs and build a 4-0 lead through two and a half innings.
York cut the lead in half in the bottom half of the second after a single down the right field line by Derek Pitzer (York, Pa./Dallastown) drove in Andrew Hershey (Lancaster, Pa./Penn Manor) from third and Colbe Herr (Hummelstown, Pa./Lower Dauphin) from second.
Three straight singles to start the sixth by Stephen Miele (Allentown, Pa./Salisbury), Colin Porter (Hanover, Pa./South Western) and Logan Countryman (Baltimore, Md./Loch Raven) loaded the bases for third baseman Scott Steffy (Downingtown, Pa./Dowingtown East). Steffey doubled to right field to score Miele and Porter, and move Countryman to third.
With two runners in scoring position and still no outs recorded, the Spartans followed up the two-RBI double by Steffy with a squeeze play to add another run to the board. As Countryman broke for home, J.J. Oleniacz (Great Falls, Va./Langley) placed a perfect bunt up the first base line that forced the pitcher to make the out at first and give up the run at home.
York tacked on a fourth run in the sixth and took a 6-4 lead on wild pitch that scored Steffey from third.
The four-run sixth inning was a huge momentum swing for the Spartans as they entered the day 18-0 when leading after six innings.
Despite the odds not being in their favor, the Seahawks were not ready to just hand York the victory.
St. Mary's loaded the bases in the top of the eight with no outs, but York was able to record a crucial 4-6-3 double play that quickly picked up two outs while only allowing one run to score. With the tying run now on third, York was able to prevent that run from scoring when junior pitcher Zach Philippi (Levittown, Pa./Harry S. Truman) was able to get a ground ball to Oleniacz at second base who, in one motion, fielded and flipped the ball out of his glove to Brad Wenzel (Blandon, Pa./Fleetwood Area) at first for the third out of the inning.
York answered back in the bottom of the eighth, picking up an important insurance run on a sacrifice fly by Hershey to right field to score Steffy and take a 7-5 lead heading into the ninth.
With no outs in the top of the ninth, the Seahawks quickly had two runners in scoring position following a Spartan fielding error, a walk and a wild pitch that moved the runners to second and third.
York recorded the first out of the inning on a ground out to second base that allowed one run to score.
With the Spartans clinging to a 7-6 lead with one out in the top of the ninth, McNamara was called into action from the bullpen. All McNamara needed to do was throw one pitch as the defense took care of the rest, executing a textbook 6-4-3 double play to end the game.
Dan Gurganus (Prince Frederick, Md./Huntingtown) earned the victory and improves to 6-0 as he tossed seven innings, allowing four runs, two earned, on seven hits with four strikeouts and four walks.
Sam Beatty of St. Mary's, the CAC leader in innings pitched and strikeouts, suffered the loss and falls to 6-3. Beatty threw six innings, giving up six runs on 10 hits with four strikeouts and two walks.
York had five players finish with two hits, including Wenzel who extended his hit streak to 16 games with a double to right center and finished the day 2-for-5. Steffy owned the biggest offensive day going 2-for-3 with two doubles, two RBI, a walk and two runs scored.
The Spartans return to action on Friday as they will face Frostburg State in second round of the 2014 CAC Baseball Tournament. First pitch from Jaquet Field is slated of 12:30 p.m.
For all the latest scores and information related to the 2014 CAC Baseball Tournament, visit http://ycpspartans.com/sports/bsb/2013-14/releases/CAC_BB_Homepage.
Scott Steffy photo courtesy of David Sinclair