BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Moravian College continues its look back at its 2013-14 athletic campaign with the No. 8 highlight in the Top 10 Exciting Games & Fantastic Finishes – the baseball team sweeping The Catholic University of America in a Landmark Conference doubleheader with a pair of walk off victories, the first in extra innings.
The Greyhounds, who were 32-12 overall this past spring, and the Cardinals met on a sunny but cool Saturday at Gillespie Field on Saturday, March 22 to open their three-game Landmark series. The Hounds would win both games in walk off fashion, 3-2 in 11 innings and 7-6, two of five games won by walk off this past spring, and the first game was one of five extra innings contests this season with the Greyhounds winning all five. Moravian was also 8-2 in one-run games in 2014.
"Anytime you can win a game in your last at bat is going to be exciting," stated Head Coach Paul Engelhardt. "To do it on conference weekends is just that much more gratifying. Each weekend game is important, and you have to play the game to its entirety. Every play counts."
In the first contest, Moravian would jump out to a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs in the bottom of the fourth inning on an RBI triple by junior right fielder Matt Hanson and an RBI single from junior left fielder Justin Pilchman. The Cardinals answered with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth to tie the game.
The score remained 2-2 through the regulation seven innings in the first game of the twin bill, and it was still 2-2 when the Hounds came to the plate in the bottom of the 11th inning. After an out to start the inning, Pilchman drew a walk to get on base.
"When I was on first, my initial thought was to find a way to make something happen and get in scoring position to help us out, whether that be stealing a base or getting a dirt ball read for a good jump," Pilchman said.
Sophomore designated hitter Alex Bull hit a ground ball to first that looked like it would be the second out of the inning. However, an error in the field, allowed Bull to make it to second base while Pilchman came all the way around to score from first with the winning run.
"Bull hit the grounder and I knew the play was probably going to be at first so I was trying to anticipate some kind of close play," explained Pilchman. "Once I got to second, I just saw the ball hit off the glove of the first basemen and knew I had a good shot at least getting to third, so I just put my head down and ran. About 2/3 of the way to third, I picked up Coach E and saw the dugout's reactions and just was not going to stop until I got to the plate, so I continued to bust it, again trying to make something happen."
Coach Engelhardt also wanted to make something happen on the play. "Justin has good speed, and I feel by constantly putting pressure on a defense, sooner or later, mistakes will happen," he said. "Alex didn't exactly crush one to the fence, but what he did do was put the ball in play. When you fight, add speed, challenge and compete...good things happen."
Pilchman and the Hounds celebrated their eighth win of the season, although just briefly as the squads had 30 minutes before the next game began.
"I was just looking for a teammate to celebrate with, but they stormed out pretty quickly and we piled up," Pilchman stated. "It's always a humbling feeling being the winning run in a late game against a rival like Catholic. It was great to score from first on what was kind of a straight forward play that turned into chaos. I was pumped to get the win and then needed to change gears and focus on the second game that day."
The nightcap of the doubleheader saw more scoring. The Cardinals took a 2-0 lead with a pair of runs in the top of the third inning. The Hounds would answer in the bottom half of the third to cut the deficit to 2-1 on an RBI ground out by Hanson.
Catholic scored three more times in the top of fourth for a 5-1 advantage.
The Greyhounds pushed four runs across the plate in the fifth inning to tie the game at 5-5. Hanson drove in the first run when he reached on a fielder's choice with two runners on base and a throwing error on the play. Sophomore first baseman Charles Savite followed with a two-RBI triple to center field, and he crossed the plate with the tying run when sophomore catcher Mike Roethke reached on an error.
The Cardinals pulled back in front, 6-5, with a run in the top of the seventh frame.
Junior Joey DiSarno led off the bottom of the seventh as a pinch hitter for Moravian, and he drew a walk to start the rally. Freshman Anthony Gaetaniello came on to pinch run to put more speed on the bases. After a pitching change, Roethke put down a sacrifice bunt to put Gaetaniello in scoring position but a throwing error in the field gave Gaetaniello enough time to score from first base with the tying run. Pilchman grounded out for the first out of the inning but he put Roethke just 90 feet away with the winning run. Senior centerfielder Joseph Connell was patient, looking for the right pitch to get into the outfield to score Roethke, but he ended up drawing a walk to put runners on the corners.
That brought junior second baseman Alex Longernecker to the plate with still just one out in the inning.
"Stepping up to the plate I had the feeling that Coach E was going to give me some type of bunt, either push or drag," stated Longernecker. "Coach E stresses all the time that small ball is a big part of the game today, with the bats having less pop. We are kind of known for doing that. I was just thankful that I got the opportunity to be in that spot and help the team win."
Coach Engelhardt did just that, giving Longernecker the signal for a safety squeeze bunt. Longernecker placed the bunt where the Cardinals had no play for an RBI single and the victory.
"I knew that I bunted the ball well, and the placement was good enough that the pitcher would have a tough time getting the out at home," Longernecker commented. "I just kept my head down and ran it out. As soon as I got to first I turned around, and realized when my teammates were coming towards me, we had won the game. It is one of the best feelings to have in sports, especially against a conference rival like Catholic."
Bunting with a runner on third base was something the Greyhounds did often in 2014.
"In the second game, we came back from an early deficit, and put ourselves in position to pull it out in the final at bat," Engelhardt stated. "Bunting, getting guys moving...is a big part of our offense. We safety squeeze alot, and the opportunity presented itself. If done correctly, you win. It was a great day, a great team builder, and is why you play the game at this level."
The Hounds would take game three of the series the next day as part of the team's 12-game winning streak this past spring. Moravian finished the Landmark regular season in first place at 14-4 and hosted the Landmark Tournament for the fourth time in five years as the top seed. While they didn't win the conference title, the Greyhounds were nationally-ranked for the first time in school history and were selected as the top seed for the 2014 NCAA Division III Mid-Atlantic Regional hosted Misericordia University at PNC Field in May.
You can check out the original game day story at http://moraviansports.com/sports/bsb/2013-14/releases/20140322hps9s1.
Top 10 Exciting Games & Fantastic Finishes of 2013-14
#10 – Field Hockey Wins Back to Back Overtime Games
#9 – Softball Walks Off in 10th to Earn Split with Catholic
#8 – Baseball Walks Off Twice to Sweep Catholic
#7 – TBA
#6 – TBA
#5 – TBA
#4 – TBA
#3 – TBA
#2 – TBA
#1 – TBA