BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Moravian College concludes its look back at the 2013-14 athletic campaign with the No. 1 story in the Top 10 Stories from the past year– the baseball program's record-breaking spring, marking the second straight year that the baseball team has held the top spot in the countdown.
The Greyhound baseball squad won a school-record 32 games this past season as part of a 32-12 record that saw the Hounds capture eight one-run victories including six in walk off fashion and three in extra innings. Moravian was 14-4 during the Landmark Conference regular season, earning the top seed in the conference tournament for the fourth time in five years. The Hounds were also 3-1 against nationally-ranked teams this spring.
The program also picked up its first national ranking in 2014. The Hounds debuted in the D3baseball.com/National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and the American Baseball Coaches Association Polls/Collegiate Baseball Polls on April 22, ranked No. 21 in both polls. The Greyhounds would remain in the polls the rest of the regular season.
"It was an honor to be recognized for the first time in school history in the national polls," stated Head Coach Paul Englehardt. "The players worked extremely hard to be the best they can be. The assistant coaches work harder than most, and are committed to making the kids the best they can be. It is not only about our team, but our entire school and administration. Without the support of our faculty, or our Athletic Director Scot Dapp, we wouldn't have the opportunity to play the schedule we do. It takes everyone supporting the efforts of our team. The kids appreciated the ranking, and worked hard to honor it and keep it the rest of the season."
When the NCAA Division III Regional Rankings started on April 24, the Hounds were the top team in the Mid-Atlantic Region for the first time in school history. Moravian would be ranked first for two weeks before dropping to second in the final public ranking. With a 3-2 walk off win over No. 6 Rowan University, then the top-ranked team in the region in the regular season finale, the Hounds would receive another first, an at-large berth to the NCAA Division III National Championship Tournament and the top seed in the Mid-Atlantic Regional played at PNC Field in Moosic.
"Although Coach E preached to us that we should not look at the rankings all year, the team knew and it was special," explained senior center fielder Joseph Connell. "Being the first team ranked in school history just shows that the hard work on and off the field does pay off. Being an alumnus now, it is special to be able to say I was on that team. I know Moravian baseball is still on the up and being ranked is something that will be the norm in the future."
There were also a number of individual milestones throughout the season with five players – junior right fielder Matt Hanson, junior third baseman Ryan Luke, senior second baseman Daniel Seitzinger, junior shortstop Colin Case and sophomore first baseman Charles Savite – reaching the 100-hit milestone, joining Connell, who had hit the mark in 2013. Senior pitchers Robert Solano, Chris Soltys and Thomas Mariano all surpassed 100 career strikeouts during the year.
"The 2014 Moravian baseball season was one I will never forget," Connell said. "Although we came up short in the playoffs, the records and accomplishments we achieved are unbelievable. The team turned heads on the national level and put Moravian baseball on the national map for good."
The long journey to the NCAA Tournament began on February 21 when the squad defeated Wesley College, 1-0, in the opening game of the 7th Annual Floyd B. Wilcox Memorial Tournament hosted by Hampden-Sydney College. The Hounds dropped a decision to the hosts the next day before finishing the weekend with an 8-5 victory over then-No. 17 Keystone College.
Moravian would have a week off because of the weather before heading to the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Florida. The Greyhounds began the trip by sweeping Heidelberg (Ohio) University, which would be nationally-ranked later in the season, winning 16-14 in 13 innings and 18-2. After a short night back at the hotel, the Hounds returned to North Charlotte Regional Park and posted their first walk off win of the year, topping then-No. 25 ranked Adrian (Mich.), 9-8 in 10 innings. Moravian faltered in its next two games before topping John Carroll (Ohio) University, 21-10, to end the trip. The back-to-back losses were the first of just two times Moravian lost consecutive games in 2014.
The weather continued to make even practicing a challenge once the team returned to Pennsylvania. After two weeks, the Greyhounds finally got back on the field for competition on March 21, and they would have to play five Landmark Conference games in three days. Moravian dropped the conference opener to Drew, 2-1, just one of two one-run losses this spring, before defeating the Rangers, 10-0, in the nightcap. The following day, the Hounds opened a three-game Landmark series with The Catholic University of America, taking the first game, 3-2, in 11 innings and the second game, 7-6. (The two games were No. 8 on Moravian's Top 10 Exciting Games & Fantastic Finishes of 2013-14 - http://moraviansports.com/information/news/2014-15/20140716m61qvp.) Moravian closed out the series with the Cardinals with a 17-3 win.
The weekend started a 12-game winning streak for the Hounds. The squad traveled to Montclair State University for a 7-5 victory before a 5-2 triumph at Juniata College, another weekend hampered by the weather. Moravian took a 10-4 decision from Misericordia University before returning to Huntingdon on April 1 to sweep Juniata, 14-0 and 13-4.
The Greyhounds started a six-game home stand at Gillespie Field on April 2 with an 8-0 win over Haverford College. Moravian then took a Landmark Conference doubleheader from Susquehanna University on April 5, winning both games in extra-inning walk offs by scores of 5-4 in 10 innings and 3-2 in 12 innings. (No. 6 on the Top 10 Exciting Games & Fantastic Finishes - http://moraviansports.com/information/news/2014-15/20140718nxewsd.) The next day saw the winning streak come to an end in an 8-1 loss to Susquehanna.
Moravian would bounce right back two days later with a 5-2 win over Drew before closing out the home stand with 4-3 victory over rival Muhlenberg College on April 10 as the Greyhounds clinched the Matte Award for the first time since 2002-03 that same day with a softball sweep of the Mules.
"I think our successful season was accredited to the depth we had on this team," explained Connell. "During mid-week games, our starting pitchers were hands down more dominate and talented than our opponents. We also had multiple guys come into games off the bench and produce big time hits all year."
The Greyhounds would hit the road with a Landmark series at The United States Merchant Marine Academy on April 12 and 13, taking two of three games including a 24-11 triumph in the series finale.
Moravian's next game was moved up a day and switched to Gillespie Field due to the weather. That setup the Greyhounds' first home win over a nationally-ranked team as the squad topped then-No. 6 Kean University, 8-1, on April 14 and thrust the squad towards the Top 25 after receiving votes in the polls for a couple of weeks.
"I believe we were good this year because of the confidence that came from winning the conference tournament the year before with a young team and the fact that we only lost one player really helped," stated Solano. "The addition of some talented freshmen was also very important to our success."
After making a trip to Center Valley and defeating DeSales University, 8-1, in a game broadcast live by Service-Electric TV, the squad headed to the University of Scranton for their final Landmark games of the regular season. Moravian swept the Royals, 7-3 and 12-1, in the doubleheader to clinch the top seed in the Landmark playoffs. Scranton finished off the series with a win as the Hounds posted a 14-4 conference mark.
Moravian had four non-conference games before the Landmark Tournament, and the Hounds scored 47 runs on those contests, defeating Neumann University, 13-8, falling to Alvernia University, 14-8, and sweeping New Jersey City University, 17-0 and 9-2.
The Greyhounds fell in the opening round of the conference tournament, falling to USMMA, 5-2. The team bounced back the following day to win a pair of elimination games, defeating Catholic, 11-0, and USMMA, 7-4, to set up a championship round versus Susquehanna. The Crusaders would win the title with a 5-2 victory and become the sixth Landmark champion to win as a lower seed in the seven-year history of the conference tournament. The only top seed ever to win a Landmark title was Moravian's 2010 squad.
Looking to guarantee a spot in the NCAA Tournament since they hadn't won the conference's automatic berth, the Hounds welcomed Rowan to Gillespie Field on May 9 for the final regularly schedule game and the first-ever game between two nationally ranked teams in Bethlehem with Rowan at No. 6 and the Greyhounds at No. 22. Moravian trailed 2-1 heading to the ninth but picked up another walk off win on Joey DiSarno's RBI single that scored Connell for the 3-2 victory. (No. 2 in the Exciting Games & Fantastic Finishes of 2013-14 - http://moraviansports.com/information/news/2014-15/20140724lva7pz.) The win was also the school-record 32nd win of the season for the Hounds.
"Personally, Rowan had to of been the best walk off," stated Connell. "Beating Rowan put us into the regional tournament without a doubt and capped us as the number one team in the Mid-Atlantic region. Rowan was top 10 in the country and we took it to them."
After earning the top seed in the Mid-Atlantic Regional, the Hounds ended up facing an All-American pitcher in the opening round and fell to Haverford, 3-1, as three of the eight top seeds in the nation lost on the opening day. Moravian battled in the elimination round but came up short, 4-3, versus host Misericordia as the season ended.
"The NCAA appearance this year meant more because it was the first time we were ever selected as an at-large bid," Solano said when asked which of the past two seasons NCAA berths would stick in his mind. "Because we were the No. 1 seed, as opposed to the No. 8 seed last year, we had much greater expectations and in turn, we were much more disappointed with the result. With that being said, I wouldn't change a thing and I love that group of guys."
When the postseason awards started to be announced, the Greyhounds grabbed their share for the outstanding season. Hanson was selected as the 2014 Landmark Conference Baseball Player of the Year, and he earned a spot on the All-Conference First Team along with Soltys, Luke, Savite and sophomore catcher Mike Roethke. Connell and Solano were named to the All-Conference Second Team.
"Although the end result was not what we wanted, the 2014 Tournament was a reward for the hard work we put in during the season," commented Connell. "Being one of the first at large teams selected and being ranked No. 1 in the tournament just shows how dominant we were during the regular season. It was a special season I will never forget."
Hanson was also named the 2014 D3baseball.com Mid-Atlantic Region Player of the Year and earned on spot on the All-Mid-Atlantic Region First Team along with Soltys while Coach Engelhardt was selected as the Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year. Hanson earned a spot on the 2014 American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings Division III Mid-Atlantic All-Region First Team while Savite, Luke and Soltys garnered spots on the All-Region Second Team and Case was selected to the Third Team.
Hanson picked up his third Player of the Year honor from the ECAC as the 2014 ECAC Division III South Player of the Year, and he was an ECAC South All-Star First Team honoree along with Soltys. Luke garnered a spot on the All-Star Second Team.
Hanson added a pair of All-American honors to his postseason list with a spot on the D3baseball.com All-America Second Team and a slot on the Rawlings/ABCA All-America Third Team. Soltys capped his outstanding senior season with a nod on the D3baseball.com All-America Third Team.
"These 10 guys are the greatest group of seniors that we've had, and we've had some good ones," commented Engelhardt. "Even though it is disappointing for the season to end the way that it did, they beat a lot of really good teams this year and earned the right to be the number one seed. Unfortunately, baseball is that way where if you are not on top of the game, you can find ways to lose and that happened to us in the NCAA Tournament. It is no reflection on their careers or their season, and they are to be commended for what they've done for Moravian baseball, but also Moravian athletics. They are absolutely great kids. It reflected on the field and we're going to miss them terribly."
The Hounds may have graduated 10 players from the 2014 squad but with seven starters back in the field and three more on the mound, Moravian looks to keep going on the national level in 2015.
Top 10 Stories of 2013-14
#10 – Women's Basketball Leads DIII in Blocked Shots
#9 – Seven Hounds Earn All-America Honors
#8 – Negron Becomes 3rd Hound to Rush for 1,000 Yards in a Season
#7 – Moravian Captures Matte Award for First Time Since 2002-03
#6 – O'Rourke First Hound to Four Milestones
#5 – Men's Indoor Track & Field Wins 5th Straight Landmark Conference Title
#4 – Kristopher Joint & Katie O'Rourke Named Senior Athletes of the Year
#3 – Hounds Claim Triple Crown of Landmark Championships in Women's Cross Country and Track & Field
#2 – Women's Basketball Earns NCAA Tournament Berth
Best of the Rest – What Missed the Top 10
#1 – Baseball's Record-Breaking Spring