Juniata Baseball Claims Conference Championship
(Posted May 8, 2004)
West Lawn, PA ? Juniata got its third outstanding pitching performance in as many games, with this one propelling the second-seeded Eagles to the 2004 Commonwealth Conference title as Juniata topped Moravian 4-1 at Owls Field in West Lawn, Pa. Saturday afternoon. Juniata earns the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament awarded to the winner of the conference tournament, and will be making its first appearance in the tournament since 1990. Juniata improved its record to 24-14, establishing a new program record for wins in a season. Moravian dropped to 15-22 with the loss.
?I?m just so thrilled for our seniors,? Juniata Head Coach George Zanic explained. ?They?ve been through a lot in four years, and have helped lead this team to new levels. They are the heart beat of this team, and really just carried us through the tournament.?
Just as crucial as the seniors in Saturday?s win was starting pitcher Cody Zong (McVeytown/Lewistown). The Eagle sophomore matched his veteran counterparts by throwing seven and two-thirds innings, allowing just one run on two hits to earn the win. Over his last three starts, all conference games, Zong is 3-0 with a 1.25 earned run average.
?Cody put together an outstanding performance in a very high-pressure game,? Zanic stated. ?We believed coming into the tournament that we had the best and deepest staff in the conference. We can go 11 deep, but our starters pitched so well we didn?t need to. The whole group just did an unbelievable job.?
In Juniata?s three games in the tournament the Eagles allowed just 14 hits and four runs in 27 innings. Eagle hurlers held the opponents to a .167 batting average. Also contributing was Juniata?s defense which committed only one error in the tournament.
Yet as well as Zong pitched, Moravian starter Shawn Brown was nearly as solid and kept the game tight throughout.
Juniata threatened in the second, with singles from Darren Hake (Red Lion/Red Lion) and Zach Sternberg (McCaskey/Lancaster) putting runners on first and third with one out. Brown then worked out of the jam, fanning one hitter and inducing a grounder back to the mound to keep the game scoreless.
Juniata punched through in the bottom of the fourth. Walt Goedkoop (Manheim Township/Lancaster) started the frame with a single and moved to sacrifice bunt from Hake. Marc Frailey (Middletown/Middletown) punched a double down the left field line to bring home Goedkoop and put Juniata on top 1-0.
Juniata added a pair of runs in the fifth. With one out, Beaver started the rally with a single. A balk from Brown moved him into scoring position, and David Saintz (Titusville/Titusville) promptly drove him home with a single to left. Brown?s control then briefly escaped him as he loaded the bases with a pair of walks. After retiring another hitter, Brown plunked Frailey to bring home a run and extend the Eagle lead to 3-0.
Moravian got on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth. Zong issued a one-out walk to Greg Peters. With one down Pete Moore singled to center, advancing Peters to third, and moved to second on the throw. A wild pitch from Zong brought in the first run for the Greyhounds and moved Moore to third. The next batter was retired on a groundball to first, but the Greyhounds cut the lead to 3-1.
Juniata got the run back in the seventh. Will Russell (Tyrone Area/Tyrone) and Goedkoop notched back-to-back singles with one out. A groundball on the infield was the second out and moved up the base runners. With two outs and runners on second and third, Frailey dropped a bunt down the third base line for an infield single that scored Russell and upped the Eagle lead to 4-1.
Brown tossed a complete game for the Greyhounds, scattering nine Juniata hits over eight innings while striking out four.
Holding a three-run lead Juniata went with closer Eric Hatten (Dubois/Dubois) in the ninth. After the first hitter was retired, two singles and a Juniata error loaded the bases. But Hatten responded by forcing a double play grounder that ended the game and gave the Championship to Juniata.
One of the seniors, Frailey paced Juniata with two hits and three RBI. Goedkoop was also 2-for-3 with a run scored. Saintz finished with one hit, an RBI and a run scored for the Eagles. Beaver and Russell each had a hit and a run scored.
Moore recorded two of Moravian?s four hits in the game.
Juniata will learn its tournament fate on Sunday May 16 when the NCAA Division III Baseball Tournament bracket is released.
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