Alvernia wins MAC Commonwealth thriller

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Reading, Pa. (May 9, 2019) - #2 Alvernia University (28-14-2) overcame a 4-0 deficit to take a 6-5 win in 11 innings over #4 Widener University (20-24-1) and take home the 2019 MAC Commonwealth Baseball Championship on Thursday afternoon at Alvernia University.

Nate Breighner scored the winning run in the 11th
inning to send Alvernia to the NCAA D-III Playoffs.

d3photography photo by Tom Nettleton

After trailing 4-0, Alvernia plated five in the top of the sixth to take the 5-4 lead, but Widener tied it back up in the bottom of the sixth. Alex Salesky doubled to left field to score Nate Breighner and break the 5-5 tie in the top of 11th. Kyle Gaynor closed out the game to get the 6-5 win.

"I think it shows a lot of character and… a lot of resiliency all the way through," said Yogi Lutz. "All year this is what [the seniors] wanted, and they assured me they were going to get it done - they came through."

After having an opportunity to take home the title on Saturday, the Golden Wolves fell to the Pride to force the if necessary game. That game was originally slated for Sunday afternoon, but rain postponed the game to Thursday, and was moved to Alvernia with the Golden Wolves designated as the away team.

The Pride had just one hit going into the bottom of the third, but they used three hits, including a leadoff double, and some costly Alvernia mistakes to plate four runs and go up 4-0.

After being retired in order in both the fourth and fifth, Alvernia strung together a series of hits to go up 5-4 on the Pride.

Joe Ginder got Alvernia started with a leadoff single up the middle and Ian Shaffer followed with a single through the left. The runners advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Mike Cirilli, and Alvernia loaded the bases after the Pride intentionally walked Nathan Sides. With on out, Nick Nutile hit a double over the left fielder to clear the bases and cut Widener's lead down to 4-3. Matt Briner then singled to bring in Nutile and tie the game up at 4-4. The Golden Wolves capped off the inning with a double by Alex Salesky to bring in Briner and put Alvernia up 5-4.

The Pride tied it back up at 5-5 after the second batter of the inning, Brandon Reis, singled and advanced to second on a passed ball. Reis then scored on a single to right.

Neither team could get back into any offensive rhythm over the next three innings - with Alvernia getting just one base runner over that span - to send the game into extra innings.

Alvernia was retired in order in the top of the 10th, but was able to make contact against Widener reliever Dylan Peiffer, who was untouchable in his first two innings of work.

With two outs in the top of the 11th, Nate Breighner got Alvernia started with a single up the middle. Breighner then came around to score on a Saleksy double to left field that was just fair and just short of leaving the park.

Kyle Gaynor came in to close out the game for Alvernia and struck out the first two Widener batters before giving up a walk. The runner then stole second to get into scoring position, but the batter hit a high fly to right field to end the threat as Alvernia took the championship.

d3photography photo by Tom Nettleton

Alvernia's offensive efforts were led by Nutile and Salesky. Nutile finished with a hit, three RBIs, and a run scored, and Salesky went 2-for-5 with two RBIs.

Nicholas Marotta got the start for Alvernia and struck five in six innings of work. Zack Landy picked up the win after allowing just one hit over four innings of work. Gaynor picked up the save for his efforts in the bottom of the 11th.

The 2019 title is Alvernia's third MAC Commonwealth title, and the first tile for Alvernia's senior class. Alvernia last won the MAC Commonwealth Championship in 2015, when the then Crusaders defeated the Pride 6-1.

With the win, Alvernia earns the MAC Commonwealth automatic qualifier to the Division III NCAA Tournament.

"We just have to wait and see where we are going to be next," added Lutz. "But I don't think it really matters with these guys, they are just anxious to be there."

Alvernia's first regional opponent, and the location of the regional, will be announced late Sunday evening during the Division III Selection Show.