BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Moravian College continues its look back at its 2013-14 athletic campaign with the No. 6 highlight in the Top 10 Exciting Games & Fantastic Finishes – the baseball squad sweeping Susquehanna University with two extra-inning walk off victories, taking the first game 5-4 in 10 innings and winning the nightcap, 3-2 in 12 innings.
The Greyhounds and the Crusaders opened their Landmark Conference series with a doubleheader at a breezy and cool Gillespie Field on Saturday, April 5. The Hounds entered the twin bill on a 10-game winning streak and looked to take control of first place in the Landmark standings. Head Coach Paul Engelhardt had his team primed for close games all season as the squad went 8-2 in one-run contests including five walk off wins.
In the opener, the Greyhounds got on the scoreboard first with an RBI ground out from senior center fielder Joseph Connell in the bottom of the second inning. Moravian extended the lead to 2-0 in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI single by sophomore left fielder Justin Pilchman.
The Crusaders pushed four runs across the plate in the top of the fifth to take a 4-2 lead.
Moravian bounced right back in the bottom half of the fifth to cut the deficit to a run after an RBI single by junior right fielder Matt Hanson. The Hounds tied the game at 4-4 in the sixth when sophomore catcher Mike Roethke ripped an RBI single.
In the top of the seventh, the Greyhounds brought senior closer Chris Soltys to the mound. Soltys tossed the next four innings to improve to 5-0 on the season, and it was his sixth appearance of longer than two innings in his first nine outings of the year. Soltys had three strikeouts in the game to reach the 100 career strikeout mark, the second of three players to hit the milestone in 2014.
Moravian left runners at second and third in the seventh inning and at second base in the eighth keeping the game going.
The Hounds would get the break they needed in the 10th. Pilchman reached on a throwing error with one out, and he ended up at second base on the play. Connell drew a walk, and Roethke reached on a fielder's choice that saw everyone safe to load the bases. That brought senior second baseman Daniel Seitzinger to plate with a chance to win the game.
"To be honest, I knew Coach E was going to give me the bunt sign before I even stepped in the box," Seitzinger commented. "Having some success in the past with the same play, I was always prepared to get the job done when the time called for it. Coach relied on me to be the guy to step up when we needed it and had enough trust in me to do so. Susquehanna always plays us tough and with it obviously being a great game, I just wanted to execute something we practice thousands of times, and it worked out in my favor."
Seitzinger would get the bunt down the third base line and everyone was safe for the RBI single and the walk off win in the opener.
"Knowing the situation and the usual outcome from past experiences, I had a good feeling the run would score if I just got the bunt down," stated Seitzinger. "With the third baseman playing deep, I was able to get the bunt down and put it in a place where it was difficult to field. Justin has great speed and was able to get a good jump and beat the play at the plate. Any time you can beat a great team in extra innings, it gives your team a confidence that's hard to beat, so I was grateful the play worked out in our favor and gave us momentum going into the weekend."
Coach Engelhardt also knew what he wanted to do in the situation that presented itself.
"Seitz is one of our best bunters with a guy on third base," explained Engelhardt. "With one out, you have to make something happen and can't risk an unproductive out. I called for a drag bunt, and if executed properly, it wins the game. Dan stepped up and laid down a perfect bunt, Justin got a great read and jump, and we were able to pull out another Conference game in our last at bat against a great team."
Moravian struck first again in the second game, taking a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on an RBI double down the left field line by junior shortstop Colin Case.
Susquehanna tied the game with a run in the fifth inning, and the Crusaders pulled in front an inning later for a 2-1 advantage.
The Hounds knotted the score again at 2-2 in the bottom half of the sixth inning when senior catcher Matthew Gutkes hit an RBI single up the middle.
Neither team scored in the seventh to force extra innings for the second straight game. The contest was the Greyhounds' fifth extra-inning contest of the season, and Moravian ended up winning all five games.
Susquehanna stranded a runner at second in the top of the eighth while Moravian left runners at both second and third in the bottom half of the inning.
The Hounds had another chance to win the game in the 10th inning when freshman left fielder Anthony Gaetaniello reached third base. Moravian wanted to attempt the safety squeeze that worked in the first game but Hanson never got a pitch to put on the ground and eventually walked before the inning ended.
Sophomore pitcher Ian Carbone continued to keep the Crusaders bats silent, picking up his first win of the season with 4.2 innings of relief action that saw four strikeouts and just one hit.
When the Greyhounds came to bat in the bottom of the 12th, sophomore designated hitter Alex Bull led off with a single through the left side. Gaetaniello put down a bunt and beat the throw to first base for an infield single and move Bull to second base. At that point, the Hounds went to the bench and put freshman Cedar McCredie on second base for Bull.
Case attempted another bunt but the Crusaders would get McCredie out at third base. Junior third baseman Ryan Luke then came to the plate looking to make something happen.
"My thinking was hit the ball hard somewhere and hopefully find a hole in the defense, Luke said.
Early in Luke's at-bat, a wild pitch moved Gaetaniello to third and Case to second.
"After the wild pitch, the infield came up and changed my thinking to getting a ball to the outfield," commented Luke. "If I was to get a ball to the outfield, we would have a good chance at winning the ball game."
Luke would lift a shallow fly ball down the right field line behind first base. Crusader second baseman Dylan Glassmire tracked down the ball but was running away from the infield. The speedy Gaetaniello tagged up from third base anyway and would beat the throw to the plate for the win and the Greyhounds second celebration on the afternoon.
"Gaets is one of the fastest kids I've been able to play baseball with," stated Luke. "Off the bat, I thought we had no shot to score the run. But with Gaets on third, he was able to rush a throw from the second baseman and beat the throw home. After he scored, I was both relieved that we were finally able to win the game and in awe that he was able to score on that pop up. It was a great moment during the season and a good way for our seniors to go out on Senior Day."
Coach Engelhardt echoed Luke on the ending of the game that extended the program's winning streak to 12 victories.
"The game needed to end," Engelhardt explained. "It had been a long day with an extra-inning game in game one, and darkness approaching. We had a great opportunity to sweep the day from a conference foe, and had to take chances.
"Gaets was on third base, and he is as fast as they come," Engelhardt continued. "I had already told him that anything hit in the air, we were taking a chance to win the game. When the ball left Ryan's bat, I knew it wouldn't be deep enough to score Gaets, but since the second basemen was running with his back to the infield, I told Gaets we go. On the catch, Gaets got a great jump, and is so fast, the throw wasn't perfect, and he scored. Without Gaets' speed, it never would have happened. It enabled us to sweep a Conference team and win the weekend series."
You can check out the original game day story at http://moraviansports.com/sports/bsb/2013-14/releases/20140405lzrxyl.
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 – Football Scores 52 Points in Wild Win over F&M
#6 – Baseball Sweeps Susquehanna in Two Extra-Inning Walk Offs
#5 – TBA
#4 – TBA
#3 – TBA
#2 – TBA
#1 – TBA