The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 21, 2014

UPJ works split with Seton Hill

JOHNSTOWN — The Pitt-Johnstown baseball team embarked on a new chapter in the program's history Friday afternoon as the Mountain Cats opened PSAC conference play for the first time by hosting the Seton Hill Griffins at Point Stadium.

In chilly, snowy conditions more suited to a Pittsburgh Steelers playoff game than a baseball opening day, the two squads split a doubleheader. The Mountain Cats (6-11) came from behind to capture a 3-2 win in the opener, while a strong pitching performance by Seton Hill's Brett Sullivan carried the Griffins (12-9) to a 4-1 victory in the nightcap.

The first contest was a pitcher's duel as both teams combined for just six hits. "There were two quality pitchers going, so we knew it was going to be a low-scoring battle," said Pitt-Johnstown head coach Todd Williams, referring to Seton Hill starter Alex Haines and the Mountain Cats' John Fees.

Pitt-Johnstown got on the board first in the bottom of the second inning without the benefit of a base hit. Jake Stern drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt. Stern then stole third and scored on a throwing error on the play to put the Mountain Cats up 1-0.

Seton Hill answered in the top of the fourth with a pair of runs on their only two hits of the contest. Anthony Fanelli singled with one out, and Taylor Schmidt followed with a walk. Third baseman Nick Sell then lined a double down the right field line to score both runners, and Sell subsequently moved to third on a wild pitch. Fees was able to pitch out of the jam by striking out Ryan Hayden and then retiring Zach Heide on a fly out to end the inning and keep it a 2-1 game.

The Mountain Cats erased that deficit in the bottom of the frame. Ernesto Rizzitano's leadoff single was followed by a base hit from Matt McGhee. Rizzitano moved to third on the play, and scored the tying run one out later on Brett Marabito's sacrifice fly. McGhee later came home with the go-ahead run on a two-out wild pitch that made it 3-2.

Pitt-Johnstown was able to hold that lead the rest of the way thanks to an outstanding relief effort by Brantley Rice. The freshman right-hander out of North Star pitched three perfect innings to earn the save. "He showed great poise for a freshman," Williams said. "He is a strike-throwing machine, and has a nice assortment of pitches." "This showed how good he can be at this level."

The Griffins' Sullivan was the standout on the mound in game two. The junior right-hander scattered three hits and struck out seven with no walks in the complete-game victory. "Sullivan had command of everything today" said Seton Hill head coach Marc Marizzaldi. "He threw four different pitches for strikes, and kept them off balance."

Left fielder Brandon Jossey blasted a one-out solo homer to center in the top of the first to put the Griffins on top before the Mountain Cats tied it in the bottom of the second. Kyle Morrow led off with a double and later scored on McGhee's two-out double.

Seton Hill then put together a three-run third. Cody Herald's one-out solo home run gave the Griffins the lead, and then Fanelli was hit by a pitch. Sell singled to right, advancing Fanelli to third. Schmidt brought home Fanelli with a sacrifice fly, and Chris Miller's two-out single drove in Sell to put the Griffins up 4-1.

That was all the support Sullivan needed as he retired 14 of the last 15 Mountain Cat hitters. "We just kept beating the ball into the ground," Williams said.

Despite the Mountain Cats' sub-.500 record so far this year, Williams is optimistic about his squad's PSAC slate. "We played a tough early schedule to prepare us for this conference", Williams said. "We started today with a clean slate and our goal is to win every series going forward."

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