For the eighth straight season, the MAC Freedom tournament ended in a celebration in the infield for the Misericordia University baseball team. After finishing up the suspended game from Sunday, which the Cougars won 4-1, MU defeated DeSales, 5-3 in the title game, Monday night at Owls Field in West Lawn, PA.
Steve Weisensee was named MVP after going 2-3 in the championship game with two RBI and 13-22 with 13 runs batted in nine runs scored in the five games in the tournament.
"It was just a team win. We had our backs against the walls for a while, and it's up to the team to bring us and I did as much as I could to get us here and in the end, we came out on top, so that's always great," said Weisensee.
Sean Lyons had two hits and an RBI and Conor Smith went 2-3. Tyler Holzapfel and Alec Iurato each went 1-4 with an RBI.
"It's an unbelievable feeling. Every year it gets harder, that's for sure and to our guys' credit, it was a complete team effort. Steve was the MVP, but we had so many big hits, so many big performances," said Head Coach Pete Egbert.
After starter Jake Kurtz walked the first two batters of the game, Egbert went to his bullpen early, calling on Kyle Melahn to get them through a couple of innings and the junior delivered, getting out of the first with just one run allowed and then throwing three more scoreless innings. Zach Mason followed with 2.1 innings, allowing two runs and striking out two to preserve the lead for Drake Koch. Koch, who is normally a starter, was called upon to get the last eight outs on just two days rest. After getting the last two outs in the seventh and striking out the side in the eighth, he got through the ninth to give the Cougars the title.
"For our pitchers to be able to pick up Jake like that, it was awesome," Egbert continued. "Obviously Drake was awesome at the end there, so I can't say enough about the group that we have. They deserve everything they accomplished."
DeSales took an early 1-0 lead, but the Cougars came back in the bottom of the first to take the lead. Kenny Jarema walked and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Parker Abate. Holzapfel came up and pulled a triple over the first basemen's glove and into the corner to tie the game. Weisensee delivered a clutch two-out RBI single two batters later two give the Cougars the lead they would hold onto the rest of the game.
In the third inning, Santo Guinta walked and advanced to second after Weisensee bunted him over. Iurato then hit a 1-0 pitch past the diving third basemen to give the Cougars their third run of the game.
An inning later, Misericordia added another run on a Weisensee bases-loaded single. Sean Boylan scored and Jarema was right behind him, but was gunned out at the plate a perfect throw on the fly from the center fielder.
DeSales pulled to within a run after scoring one run in the sixth and seventh innings. In both innings, the Bulldogs had the tying run at the plate or on base, but Mason got out of a first and third one-out situation in the seventh with a pop up and a ground out and Koch stranded the tying run at third base by inducing a fly out to Abate in center to end the inning and preserve the slim lead.
Misericordia got a huge insurance run in the seventh on a base hit from Lyons to score Weisensee, who had reached on an error earlier in the inning.
After striking out the side in the eighth, Koch came back out for the ninth with a two-run lead. After getting the leadoff batter out, he induced a comebacker, but threw the ball away to allow the batter to get to second base and make the final inning a little more nerve-wracking. After Koch recorded a strikeout for the second out, a grounder to third base looked to end the game, but the batter was called safe after diving into first base, as most of the Cougars were halfway onto the field. Conner Lafferty came up as the go-ahead run and swung on the first pitch and sent a fly ball, fittingly, to Weisensee in right field, who made the catch, sending the Cougars into a celebration.
Misericordia will find out its opponent and location for the NCAA Tournament on May 13.