Presidents win two and take PAC title

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WASHINGTON, Pa. -- The No. 18-ranked Washington & Jefferson baseball team won its 11th Presidents' Athletic Conference baseball championship by defeating Grove City by a pair of 8-1 margins in the championship round.

With the victory, W&J improves to 34-10 on the season and earns the PAC's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division III Championship. The 34 victories are tied for the third-most in program history. W&J will be appear in its sixth NCAA Division III Regional next week from Thursday-Monday, May 18-22, and it is highly likely that the Presidents will appear in the 2017 Mideast Regional at Ross Memorial Park.

The Presidents came into the first game of the day needing to win in order to force an "if-necessary" game later for a chance at the title. The scoring began in the second inning with a solo shot to center field from Frank Fortunato (Canonsburg, Pa./Canon-McMillan). After a hitless top of the next inning, the Presidents added some cushion to their lead with three runs in the bottom of the third. With the bases loaded by the first three batters of the inning, Kevin Begley (Allison Park, Pa./Deer Lakes) scored off a double-play ball to the shortstop. Nick Vento (Murrysville, Pa./Franklin Regional) and Fortunato both added RBI singles in the inning, giving W&J a 4-0 lead. 
W&J then tallied two hits and one run in each of the last four innings, including a pair of hits each from Dante Dalesandro (Pittsburgh, Pa. / Mount Lebanon) and Vento, bringing the final score to 8-1.
Santino Platt (Pittsburgh, Pa./OLSH) got the win by pitching 8.1 solid innings, allowing only one run on four hits and adding in five strikeouts in his longest career outing. Joe Vita (Gibsonia, Pa./Hampton) shut the door in game one allowing no hits in achieving the final two outs, giving the Presidents the win and forcing the second game of the day.
After a 35 minute break, the teams were set to go again, this time with the championship trophy on the line. 
Grove City scored the first run in the second inning, but in the third inning, the Presidents were able to answer. Derek Helbing (Pataskala, Ohio/Watkins Memorial) hit his third sacrifice fly of the championship round, scoring Begley. Vento then hit a single up the middle, scoring Dalesandro, and then Fortunato hit the second sac fly of the inning, scoring Adam LaRue (Imperial, Pa./West Allegheny). With three runs in the top of the frame, W&J went up 3-1 heading into the bottom of the third.
The Presidents were able to add two more runs in the next two innings. In the fourth, Ryan Scuillo (Vandergrift, Pa./Kiski Area) led off with a double, and came around to score on a single from Mark Merlino (Irwin, Pa./Penn-Trafford). Then in the fifth, Helbing led off with his 11th home run of the season, the second most single-season home runs in program history, putting the Presidents up 5-0.
In the seventh inning, W&J was able to add the last three runs of the tournament. LaRue and Helbing both reached base to start the inning by way of a single and a walk, respectively, and were both plated by Vento with a towering three-run shot over the left field fence.
Riley Groves (Louisville, Ohio/Louisville) got his eighth win of the season with five innings of work, allowing only one run on two hits. The victory was the 25th of his career, tying him for third place on the Presidents' career list. Matt Heslin (McDonald, Pa./Fort Cherry), Will Bowser (Burgettstown, Pa./Madonna (W.Va.)) and Tim Mulvey (Glenshaw, Pa./OLSH) allowed only one total hit in relief, holding the Wolverines to only one run on the day. Mulvey's appearance was the 54th of his career, establishing a new W&J record.

Vento finished the night cap with a 3-for-5 effort, including four RBI, while LaRue, Sciullo and Merlino all posted multi-hit efforts.