Last spring, Mount Aloysius College entered the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Tournament as a sixth seed and stunned the field by advancing to the title game before finishing as the runner-up.
This year, coach Kevin Kime’s squad earned the No. 3 spot and will host Penn State-Altoona in Saturday’s first-round conference postseason action.
“Last season we got hot at the right time and advanced the whole way to the championship game and lost to LaRoche,” Kime said. “We’ve made the playoffs every year we’ve been eligible in the conference. We had a transition period when we went into Division III. This will be the fifth year we’ve made the playoffs. This is the highest seed we’ve ever had in the conference.”
Mount Aloysius had a 23-12 record with a 10-6 mark in the AMCC prior to Wednesday’s non-conference doubleheader at Frostburg State University.
No. 6 Penn State-Altoona is 13-26,
7-9. The teams will play a best-of-3 series at the Mount, with the possibility of playing as many as three games in one day.
The first game begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Calandra-Smith Field.
Kime and his players realize they won’t sneak up on the field during this season’s conference playoffs.
“The playoff experience helps a lot,” Kime said. “Feeding off of what we were able to do last year and finishing as the runner-up in the AMCC, that kind of took our program to the next level. Our guys from the beginning of the season up until now are confident and feel they can win. They have that experience of playing in big games.”
Senior captain Aaron Kovach is ranked first in the AMCC in five offensive categories, including batting average (.441), slugging percentage (.676), RBI (41), doubles (14) and triples (three).
The third baseman is in the top 100 of seven NCAA Division III offensive categories.
Sophomore designated hitter Cory Dick is second on the team with a .386 batting average, ranking fifth in the conference. Ferndale graduate Ian Helsel is the local connection in the lineup.
The freshman has a .322 batting average with 11 doubles and 10 stolen bases. Freshman right fielder Connor Bowie bats .341 with 22 RBI.
“We’re a singles, doubles hitting team,” Kime said. “We play some small ball. We like to run. We lead the conference in stolen bases and have 80 stolen bases.
“We’re aggressive. We move runners. We bunt. We have extra bases here and there, but for the most part we’re a small-ball club that likes to put pressure on opponents.”
The Mount had a .310 team batting average with 244 runs and 80 stolen bases in 95 attempts prior to Wednesday’s games at Frostburg.
On the mound sophomore right-hander Derrick Capiak has emerged as the staff ace with an 8-2 record, one save and AMCC-highs of 71 strikeouts in 69 innings. His eight wins also topped the conference.
Sophomore righty Chris Nolan is 5-2 with 36 strikeouts.
Sophomore right-hander Cameron Kyle is 5-2 with two saves and 33 strikeouts in 32 innings.
“We’ve pitched very well, and when our top guys are on the mound, we’ve pitched exceptionally well,” Kime said. “Derrick Capiak, our No. 1 pitcher, leads the conference in strikeouts and in wins with eight.
“We play good defense,” he added. “We lead the conference in fielding percentage at .968. We focus on solid pitching, playing great defense and finding a way to manufacture runs. We have good senior leadership. We play well as a team.”