May 17 - BETHANY, W.Va. – After finishing the regular season with a 20-17 record, the Bethany College baseball team was rewarded with a bid to the ECAC South Region Tournament and will open up play Wednesday when they host Penn State-Altoona at Bethany Park, with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m.
The Bison, who won their most games since going 23-17 in 2005, are the #4 seed and will take on the fifth-seeded Lions (22-22) in one of two first round games Wednesday. Fellow PAC member Grove City (19-19) is the third seed, but is unable to host a game, so they will travel to #6 LaRoche (21-17) and bat second in their game Wednesday.
Wednesday’s two winners will advance to Saturday, when Wesley College in Dover, Del., will host the semifinals and championship games. The top-seeded Wolverines (27-13) will face the Bethany/Altoona winner at 9 a.m, with the Grove City/LaRoche winner meeting #2 Neumann (Pa.) University (19-17-1) at 12:30 p.m. The semifinal winners will play the championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Bethany is making their fourth ECAC Tournament appearance in school history and first since 2000. The Bison made the championship game in 1996 by defeating Frostburg State 11-7 in the semifinals, but lost in the title contest 6-5 to Ursinus. BC’s other two appearances ended with losses in the semifinals, including a 3-2 setback to Albright in 1995 and a 9-0 defeat to Allentown (now DeSales University) in 2000.
This year’s Bison team is led by seven hitters who are batting over .300. Freshman 3B Brad Kubis (Aliquippa, Pa./Hopewell) paces the attack, as he is third in the PAC with a .455 average and leads the team with 43 RBIs. In addition, Kubis is the team’s closer and leads all of Division III with 12 saves to go along with 16 strikeouts and a 1.47 ERA in 18 1/3 innings.
Other key producers at the plate for BC include junior CF Tyler Dillinger (McKeesport, Pa.), who is second behind Kubis with a .380 average and leads the team with 43 runs scored, 13 doubles and 24 walks; junior 2B Eric Fudala (Uniontown, Pa./Laurel Highlands), who is hitting .365 with one homer and 19 RBIs; and senior DH/OF Chris Leasure (Stafford, Ohio/Monroe Central), who set a new Bethany single-season record with 10 home runs and knocked in 38 runs while batting .350. Leasure also broke the school’s career home run record this year with 26 round-trippers for his tenure.
The Bison’s pitching staff features four right-handers who have all thrown 40+ innings this year. Sophomore Zach Grayson (McKeesport, Pa./South Allegheny) has nine starts and is 5-3 with a 6.35 ERA in 45 1/3 innings this year. Sophomore T.J. Zarewicz (Pittsburgh, Pa./North Hills) matched Grayson for wins with a 5-5 record and logged 45 2/3 innings pitched, as did junior Mike Kochman (Pittsburgh, Pa./Serra Catholic), who was 4-3 with a 5.32 ERA and recipient of PAC Pitcher of the Week honors for May 10. Freshman Zach Kozlowski (Pittsburgh, Pa./Baldwin) led the staff with 29 strikeouts and went 1-3 in 41 1/3 innings of work.
This is the second consecutive ECAC Tournament bid for Penn State-Altoona, who won last year’s South Region championship with wins over Neumann (5-4) and Wesley (22-14). This season, the Lions finished as the third seed in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference (AMCC) and advanced to the league’s Final Four, but they were eliminated with defeats to Penn State Behrend (5-4) and Frostburg State (14-11).
Altoona’s offense is spearheaded by OF Jimmy Baum, who led the squad in nearly every offensive category. He broke the school’s single-season hits record with 82, as he posted a .482 average while clubbing 18 doubles, eight triples and five home runs. Baum also paced the team with 55 runs scored, 50 RBIs and 27 stolen bases.
Baum doesn’t have the only potent bat in the Altoona line-up. Shortstop Tyler Stiffler was second with a .404 average, 37 runs scored and 14 doubles while also hitting one home run and collecting 24 RBIs. The only major statistic that Baum didn’t lead the Lions in was home runs, as RF Cord Heine belted nine long balls and drove in 35 while hitting .340 for the year. This came a year after Heine hammered 16 homers in his freshman season
On the mound, Altoona’s pitching is fairly deep, as 11 hurlers started at least two games, but no one started more than six. Sophomore right-hander Shaun Delozier logged team-highs of 52 1/3 innings pitched, four complete games and 41 strikeouts while posting a 4-2 record and 5.50 ERA during the season. Freshman righty Chris Keeler was unbeaten in his first collegiate season, going 6-0 with a 4.79 ERA and 28 Ks in 35 2/3 innings.