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Love's complete game shutout sends the Eagles to championship round, but they can't get by Moravian

(Posted May 8, 2010)

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- In another must win game for the Juniata College baseball team, the Eagles sent John Love (Loysburg, Pa./Northern Bedford) to the hill, and he responded with his second straight nine-inning complete game, this time beating Catholic University in the Landmark Conference Tournament, 8-0, Saturday afternoon in Bethlehem, Pa.

The win sent the Eagles to the championship round of the double-elimination tournament, where they ran into the Moravian College train that continued to steamroll each team they played, losing the nightcap on Saturday, 19-2. The win for the Greyhounds gives them the first automatic bid into the NCAA Regional Tournament out of the Landmark Conference, after the two year conference provisional period.

But it was another stellar pitching performance in the first elimination game of the day by Love that even allowed the Eagles to reach the championship series, surprising the entire conference.

Love scattered seven hits in his complete game, while striking out four Cardinals and only walking two. He worked out of jams in the second, fifth, and ninth innings, where Catholic left two runners on base in each inning.

The first log jam was possibly the biggest for Love and the Eagles, as they faced the bases loaded with no outs recorded. But Love had his biggest strikeout of the game, in only the second inning, as he struck out LJ Travglia for the first out. He then induced Chris McCloud to hit a sharp ground ball to Andrew Kriss (Forest Hill, Md./John Carroll) at shortstop, who made a smooth flip to Kyle Saxman (York, Pa./York Suburban) and he turned the double play to get out of the inning.

The Eagles scored two runs in four different innings, starting with the third frame.

Evan Pappas (Potomac, Md./Thomas Sprigg Wootten) led off the inning with a single through the right side. Tom Eck (Columbia, Pa./Lancaster Catholic) advanced him to second with sacrifice bunt, and three batters later, Johnny Martinez (Mt. Union, Pa./Mt. Union) singled him home. A failed pickoff attempt to first base saw the ball sail deep into foul territory, allowing Kriss, who walked, to come around from second to score the second run.

Then in the fifth, with two outs and the bases loaded again after an intentional walk to Martinez, Greg Hoffman (Phoenix, Md./Dulaney) reached on a throwing error by the shortstop. The throw again went into foul territory, allowing Case Dykstra (Somerset, Pa./Somerset) and Eck to score the unearned runs.

After a quiet top half of the sixth for Catholic, the Eagles tacked on two more runs to extend the lead to 6-0. Saxman singled off the glove of the third baseman with one out to start things off. Pappas sacrificed him to second, and with two outs, Eck hit a hot shot to first base. David Grear couldn't handle the hit, and bobbled the exchange to the pitcher who was covering, but it still allowed Saxman to score. After advancing to second on a wild pitch, Dykstra singled into left center, scoring Eck for the second run.

Then again in the seventh, Juniata struck again with two runs in the bottom half. With one out, Hoffman deposited a pitch, which was up in the zone, over the fence and into the trees in left field for his first homerun of the season. Then four batters later, with the bases loaded and a new pitcher, Pappas secured the easy RBI following a walk, forcing home Ian Thorne (Germantown, Md./Seneca Valley).

Then Love went to work, sitting Catholic (22-17 overall) down in order in the eighth, and stranded two more Cardinals on base in the ninth, as Tim Mierzwa popped out to Saxman to end the contest, securing the shutout and a birth into the championship round.

But Juniata couldn't keep the momentum into their second game of the afternoon, as they had to use five different pitchers to get through the nine innings. Moravian kept their hot bats alive, scoring runs in all but two of their half innings.

Starting pitcher, Ryan Cummings, left Kriss at third base in the top of the first, and the Greyhounds offense did the rest.

They scored two runs in the first before exploding for five runs in the third and seven in the fifth, all but securing Moravian's first Landmark Conference Championship.

The Greyhounds got things started as their leadoff man Jason Huber homered to left field, setting the tone for the game.

The big blow in the fifth was another homerun for Moravian (26-13), as Austin Rock launched his first homerun of the season into the trees in left field, plating Jake Schweitzer in the process.

Juniata (15-25) cut it to 7-2 with single runs in the third and fourth, but a nice relay to the plate in the fourth cut down Russ Gray (Johnstown, Pa./Richland) trying to score, ending the inning and the threat.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth, Eck roped a single into left field, easily scoring Thorne, but the relay from left came to the third baseman who continued it to the plate, in time to get Gray. That is all the runs the Eagles would score in their final game.

The seven run fifth extended the lead to 16-2, and it was all but over for Juniata. From the fifth inning on, the Eagles only managed one hit; a two out double by Martinez in the eighth.

Juniata reached the championship game for the first time since 2006 when they were a part of the Commonwealth Conference. The Eagles lose four starters, but return 23 letter winners including all but one from the pitching staff.

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.