BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- The No. 22 ranked and top seed Moravian College baseball team took an early lead but was unable to hold on, falling to second seeded Susquehanna University in the 2014 Landmark Conference Tournament Championship Round at Gillespie Field Monday.
The Greyhounds, now 31-10 overall after having tied the school record for wins on Sunday, needed to defeat the Crusaders, 28-12, twice to win their second consecutive title while Susquehanna needed just the one victory while coming through the winner's bracket, which also made the Crusaders the home team Monday. Susquehanna earns an automatic berth to the 2014 NCAA Division III Tournament with the victory.
"I tip my cap to Susquehanna," stated eight-year Head Coach Paul Engelhardt. "They have one of the best teams in the Landmark that we've played over the last few years with strong pitching and guys that can hit the ball. We gave them a battle today but they pulled it out the win this time and that is how baseball goes."
Moravian falls into the Pool C/At-Large list for the NCAA Tournament that will be announced by press release on Sunday, May 11 at midnight on NCAA.com. Nine of the Greyhounds' 31 wins this season have come against teams that are regionally-ranked, and the Hounds have been first in the last two Mid-Atlantic Regional rankings putting Moravian in good position for its second straight NCAA berth and first as an at-large selection. The Greyhounds also have one regular season game remaining with Rowan University, currently ranked second in the region.
"The loss is going to hurt for the kids today, and probably tomorrow with an off day, but we get back to practice on Wednesday and prepare for Rowan," Engelhardt said. "Our job as coaches is to make sure our guys know the season isn't over yet with a big game on Friday, and we fully expect to be playing in the NCAA Tournament next week. We put together a very tough schedule and beat some good teams. Our guys know that and just have to bounce back to be ready to play the next time we get on the field."
Moravian took a 2-0 lead on the Crusaders with a pair of runs on the top of the second inning. Junior third baseman Ryan Luke started the inning with a single, and he scored on an RBI single by freshman designated hitter Nicolas Ampietro in just Ampietro's second at-bat of the season. Ampietro, who made his first start of the year not on the mound, would be thrown out at the plate as he tried to score on a safety squeeze bunt by sophomore second baseman Alex Bull. The Greyhounds other run came when sophomore catcher Mike Roethke scored on an RBI single by the middle by freshman left fielder Anthony Gaetaniello. However, the Hounds left two runners on base.
Susquehanna answered back in the bottom of the second with two runs to tie the contest at 2-2. Freshman catcher Tom Shields hit an RBI single to center field, scoring freshman designated hitter Kyle Semmel, who had started the inning with a walk. Junior second baseman Nick Kennedy put down an RBI safety squeeze bunt to score freshman first baseman Dylan Jenkins, who had doubled down the right field line earlier in the inning.
The Greyhounds put two runners on base with one in scoring position in the fifth but were unable to score, a theme that ran through the game as Moravian left eight runners on base with two in scoring position.
"I thought we hit the ball hard today, but we were just hitting right at people and couldn't get one or two to fall with runners on base," Engelhardt commented.
The Crusaders broke the tie in the bottom of the seventh inning on a bases loaded RBI sacrifice fly freshman right fielder Taylor Luckenbill that scored Shields, who had started the frame with an infield single, for a 3-2 lead. Sophomore second baseman Dylan Glassmire followed with an RBI single up the middle to score junior left fielder Jared Musilli, who had reached on a fielder's choice earlier in the inning. Sophomore third baseman Bryan Palsi, who was selected as the tournament's Most Valuable Player, made the Susquehanna lead 5-3 with an RBI single up the middle to score freshman pinch runner Jimmy Kinneally.
Moravian would go down in order in the eighth and nine innings.
Susquehanna had an 8-7 edge in hits with both Glassmire and Shields going 2-for-4. Ampietro led Moravian at the plate with a 2-for-4 game.
Junior Luc Kocher improved to 6-2 for the Crusaders with a complete game win that saw him allow two runs on seven hits and a walk while striking out three batters.
Sophomore Anthony Zaloga started for the Greyhounds on the hill and suffered his first loss of the season after giving up five runs, just two earned, on seven hits and a walk to go with five strikeouts. Sophomore Hunter Guard allowed a hit and a walk in 0.1 innings while senior Chris Soltys tossed the final inning with a walk and two strikeouts.
Moravian's regular season finale with Rowan is scheduled for a 3:00 p.m. first pitch on Friday, May 9 at Gillespie Field.