The 2014 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference baseball tournament is slated for Pullman Park in Butler.
If the conference has its way, the tournament may return to the place where this year’s event is being contested.
Eight teams from the PSAC, including defending NCAA Division II champion West Chester, traveled to Johnstown, where Point Stadium serves as the venue for the tournament for the third time in four years. The West Virginia Intercollege Athletic Conference held its tournament there in 2008, 2009 and 2012.
The PSAC tournament started Wednesday with three games – lightning delays forced the postponement of a fourth – and continued Thursday with five more. The tournament resumes today and the championship game is scheduled for Saturday.
Point Stadium has become a favorite stop for the conference, which will add Pitt-Johnstown and nearby Seton Hill for the 2013-14 school year. It’s a convenient meeting spot for several of the PSAC tournament regulars like Slippery Rock, California University of Pennsylvania and Millersville. Hotels and restaurants are nearby. Coaches and players can walk to the venue.
“We like coming here,” PSAC Associate Commissioner Will Adair said Thursday. “It’s a great location and comes with great people who help run the tournament. Our coaches love it. We all like the feeling of quirkiness it brings and the fact who can play here under most conditions. For a lot of reasons, it’s the best venue for us.”
The Sportexe artificial turf playing surface enables games to be contested in rainy conditions, which plagued the first two days of the tournament. There’s been an increase in similar surfaces at baseball facilities, but Point Stadium offers something others do not.
The pitcher’s mound and home-plate area are dirt. The mound is of particular concern to PSAC Commissioner Steve Murray.
“Pullman has a turf pitcher’s mound and, quite honestly, I’m nervous about that,” Murray said. “This event is a good showcase for us. We have four or five pitchers here this year that are draft prospects. There was about 20 scouts here earlier today. … Do we want to come back here? Absolutely, yes.”
The PSAC may be comprised of schools from the northeast, but it’s become a power in Division II.
West Chester’s championship gives the conference bragging rites for now, but the PSAC is far from a one-hit wonder.
“Our baseball has been amazing,” Murray said. “We’ve sent a team to the (Division II) World Series nine straight years. With West Chester winning last year, that’s a rarity for a school this far north. We hope it’s something we can continue.”
Slippery Rock produced St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams. Former West Chester second baseman Joseph Wendle was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the sixth round of the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
“It really is amazing the level of play we have,” Adair said. “One reason is the coaching in this league is great. I’ve noticed baseball in the north is kind of catching up to other areas.”