UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State University Athletic Conference baseball playoffs will continue this weekend as four teams compete for the 2018 title and look to earn an automatic bid to the United States Collegiate Athletic Association Small College World Series. With play-in games already settled, the final four will enter a double-elimination tournament scheduled to resume on Sunday, May 6th at Showers Field in DuBois, Pa.
Penn State DuBois and Penn State Brandywine were the no. 1 seeds of their respective divisions, earning a bye into the second round. Joining them will be Penn State Wilkes-Barre and Penn State Beaver, who each earned their spot in the final four with wins in their play-in games this past weekend. Second round action begins on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. with the championship game(s) set for early afternoon on Monday.
Penn State Brandywine
Penn State Brandywine enters the PSUAC Playoffs as the no. 1 seed in the East and what makes them so interesting is that their stats don't pop. Only three hitters finished in the league's top 50 in average, and only two of those exceeded the .300 mark. One of those, senior Matt Masi, did add some fireworks to the lineup with eight home runs and 27 RBIs while hitting .378.
Still, head coach Vinny Gallo put together a solid team that looks to add its second conference title to the trophy case. What Brandywine lacks in style, they certainly make up for in consistency and efficiency. The Lions finished in the top five in fielding percentage, runs scored, hits, double, triples, home runs, RBIs and walks. They also finished in the top five in ERA while playing one of the league's more challenging schedules outside the conference.
Don't let their 18-16 overall record fool you--Brandywine will be ready to improve upon their 11-4 conference record as they play the West Division's no. 3 seed Penn State Beaver at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Penn State Wilkes-Barre
Penn State Wilkes-Barre had a bye in their sights. One win over division rival Penn State Hazleton in a season-ending doubleheader would have clinched Wilkes-Barre's spot in the final four. Instead the Lions were swept and had to earn their way to the second round through the play-in game. In a back and forth contest with Penn State Schuylkill, Wilkes-Barre prevailed to advance and will meet West no. 1 Penn State DuBois at 10 a.m. on Sunday.
Michael Tierney leads a squad that much like Brandywine lacks stats. Still, they've made an impact in the only stat that truly matters--wins and losses. Wilkes-Barre finished 10-4-1 in the PSUAC and lost much of their non-conference schedule to weather. In PSUAC play, Wilkes-Barre outscored opponents by 45 runs and finished second as a team with a .327 batting average. Their team ERA of 4.94 was also second best in the league, but will be challenged by the potent DuBois lineup.
Penn State DuBois
Still a young program, Penn State DuBois cruised to the top of the PSUAC West in 2018. In just its fourth season, the baseball program has finished near the top of the conference in every season and since the split to divisions in 2017, DuBois has lost only two conference games, going 25-2 over that span. A mark of 14-1 this year was tops in either division as the Lions outscored conference opponents by more than 100 runs in just 15 contests.
Head coach Tom Calliari looks to put the first Nittany Lion statue in the campus trophy case for baseball, and he certainly has a team capable of doing just that. Three DuBois players had more than 30 hits, led by Talon Falls who led the league with 47. Thirteen of those hits were for extra bases, including three home runs. On the mound, Caleb Bennett was a perfect 5-0 with a league-leading 3.18 ERA.
Playing in front of their home crowd at Showers Field, DuBois will have to get by Wilkes-Barre on Sunday at 10 a.m.
Penn State Beaver
The unlikeliest squad to reach the final four, Penn State Beaver took advantage of a second chance and topped Penn State Greater Allegheny 7-3 in their play-in game last Friday. The no. 3 seed from the West comes into the PSUAC Playoffs with a 9-15 overall record, including 7-8 in conference play.
Longtime head coach Jack Hilfinger leads the Lions, who seek their 22nd ever conference baseball crown. Hilfinger looks to add to their most recent 2016 title, but will need to pull off some upsets. The first begins with the no. 1 seed from the East, Penn State Brandywine, who they will meet at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. Leading the way will be Zack Cossette, who hit .368 on the season. He's joined by Justyn Francona, who finished in the top 20 in RBIs and the top 10 in ERA.