Entering Saturday’s doubleheader against ESU (29-16, 13-11 PSAC), the Marauders (36-14, 18-6 PSAC) needed just one win to secure their spot atop the PSAC East. Some great pitching helped accomplish that and then some, as the Marauders swept ESU by scores of 3-2 and 6-3 to clinch the PSAC East Division title.
Sending Chris Murphy to the hill for game one left little doubt in the Marauders minds that they’d be headed to the tournament as the No. 1 seed. Murphy, a Tino Martinez Award candidate, has been nearly untouchable all season, touting a 1.77 ERA coupled with a 12-1 record. Coach Jon Shehan attributes Murphy’s success to the movement on his pitches, advertising Murphy as a “sinker slider guy who has a good fastball…but relies more on movement than throwing balls by hitters.” Whatever Murphy is relying on was displayed beautifully in game one, which saw him tally his eighth complete game of the season en route to a Marauder win.
In game one, the Marauder offense was quick to give Murphy a lead; a RBI single by Dan Johnson in the first put them up 1-0. After three shutdown innings by Murphy, the Marauders extended the lead to three, capitalizing on an error and a Tyler McDonald sac fly. The score would remain 3-0 in favor of the Marauders until the sixth, when ESU DH Mike Tenaglia blasted a solo home run to left, breaking up the shutout.
Unable to provide any cushion for Murphy headed into the seventh, a one out triple followed by an RBI groundout by ESU’s Matt Walewski put the Warriors within one. With two outs and victory within their grasp, an error and a quick single put runners on the corner. Fortunately for the Marauders, Murphy was able to bear down and get Eric Boyer to fly out to left, ending the game and giving the Marauders the PSAC East title.
Coach Shehan gave the ball to fourth starter Jim McDade in game number two, looking for a quality outing to complete the sweep. McDade turned in what may be his best outing of the season, going 5.2 innings, allowing just three earned while striking out three.
Once again, the Marauders jumped out to an early lead, plating a run in the top of the first off a groundout by Dan Johnson. A crucial throwing error on shortstop Eric Linares allowed three more to score in the second, giving McDade some room to work with.
McDade was able to keep the Warriors off the board until the third when an RBI single scored Linares and cut the Marauder lead to three. Intent on giving McDade some more breathing room, David Pine singled home Kurt Seiders in the sixth to push the score to 5-1. After an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth ran the score to 5-2, McDade was pulled and replaced with closer Adam Zipko who was able to put an end to the Warriors’ small rally.
A two out single plated a final run for the Warriors, pushing the score to 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh before Zipko was able to close the door, earning his seventh save of the season. Coach Shehan referred to Zipko as “a constant” in the bullpen this season. Ending the season with an impressive 1.88 ERA and seven saves, Zipko has been a force at the back of the bullpen for the Marauders.
When asked about the PSAC Tournament earlier in the season, Coach Shehan declared that “[they] will worry about PSAC’s and Regionals when the next pitch happens to be in one of those post season tournaments.” Well that time has now come, as the Marauders kick off the PSAC Tournament Wednesday, May 8th against four seed Slippery Rock. The Rock took 10 of their last 15 games of the season, bringing them to a 31-19 overall record. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. in Johnstown.