Seton Hill baseball head coach Marc Marizzaldi said after a 9-4 loss to Angelo State on Tuesday night that his team looked exhausted. After a long regular season and conference tournament, they had begun to lag as they hit the quarter final stage of the Division II baseball championship.
Playing under the hot, North Carolina sun on the heels of two games in three days, the Griffins were unable to come up with the kind of offense that had set records during earlier portions of the season. Not once during the regular season did Seton Hill go more than two games without hitting a home run, but they failed to clear the fences at all over three games this past week at the USA Baseball Training Complex in Cary.
“I sure looked [like we were tired],” Seton Hill head coach Marc Marizzaldi said. “Some of our better hitters who put up some great power numbers this year, it seemed like they were swinging telephone poles. And we had some really bad outs today. … Hate to make excuses for them and the way they played, but they seemed fatigued.”
Early in Wednesday’s elimination game against Wingate (36-13), it appeared that the Griffins (39-8) had overcome that exhaustion, but it proved to be only temporary. They struck first and took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, but the Bulldogs responded with a four spot in the bottom half and did not look back, winning and advancing to the semifinals by a final of 5-1. With this loss, Seton Hill has been eliminated from the 2021 Division II Baseball Tournament.
It was an auspicious start for Seton Hill. After starting pitcher Kevin Vaupel retired the top of the Wingate lineup in order in the first, his offense took a 1-0 lead on an RBI single from catcher Tyler Froehlich. The Griffins were awake and aggressive after wrapping up their game against. Angelo State less than 20 hours earlier.
But things took a turn for the worst soon after. In the bottom half of the inning, Vaupel was tagged for four runs by the Bulldogs, two of which came on a triple from the eight-hitter Carson Simpson. They would add one more in the fifth on a single from Logan McNeely, his lone hit of the game.
The bottom third of the Bulldog order — Andrew McKay, Carson Simpson and Justin Guy — was massively productive, going a combined 4 for 11 and driving in four of their five runs. Offense from the latter portion of the lineup has been a staple of the Wingate offense all season long.
“I think it’s obviously huge,” head coach Jeff Gregory said postgame. “It’s been a huge part of our success for the last couple of months. When you have guys at the bottom of the lineup who can produce … and turn that lineup over, it’s a big factor.”
Bulldogs starter David Nash was similarly stellar on Wednesday afternoon. He navigated multiple jams created by the Griffins and tossed all nine innings, a godsend for a Wingate that may have to play two more games before the weekend is over. Nash scattered six hits while allowing just one run and striking out seven.
“He was just relentless on the mound.” Marizzaldi said. “To get a complete game out of him at this point in the tournament is really huge for them.”
Wednesday’s loss in Cary, North Carolina marks a sour end to one of the best seasons in Seton Hill history. They end their season one win shy of 40 after winning a conference title and sweeping the Atlantic Regional to earn their second trip to the Division II Championship Tournament ever.
But after winning their first game in Cary over Southern New Hampshire, the Griffins simply ran out of steam. Still, this ending didn’t mar a successful 2021 campaign in Marizzaldi’s eyes.
“Seven of the eight teams that come here to Cary go home disappointed. That’s just a fact,” Marizzaldi said. “And we’re one of them, one of those teams that’s disappointed. … But it’s two losses. If they’re at the beginning of the season or the middle of the season, we probably look at them a little differently. In no way are we any less proud of the things our guys accomplished.”