SALISBURY, Md. – The top-seeded Salisbury University baseball team will begin play in the Capital Athletic Conference championship series beginning on Friday, May 11 when it hosts No. 3 seed Penn State University-Harrisburg. The game will begin at 3:30 p.m.
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Friday afternoon's game will be the first of a best-of-three series to determine the conference champion. The second game will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 12, with the third game, if necessary, to be played following game two, at approximately 2 p.m.
How We Got Here
The Sea Gulls (31-10) captured the top seed with a 15-3 regular season conference record and locked up home field throughout the tournament. In the first round last weekend, the maroon and gold swept its pod, defeating both No. 4 seed Frostburg State University and No. 6 seed York College of Pennsylvania in Friday's games, 7-0. York and Salisbury squared off a second time on Saturday, with the Sea Gulls defeating the Spartans, 11-3, to move on to the championship series.
How They Got Here
The Lions (31-12) earned the third seed in the tournament with a 12-6 record in league play during the regular season. As the third seed, they traveled to Christopher Newport University and came away with a sweep of their own. In its first game on Friday, Penn State-Harrisburg narrowly defeated No. 5 seed Southern Virginia University, 12-11, before winning another close contest over the host team, No. 2 seed Christopher Newport, 10-9. The two teams met again the following morning, with the Lions defeating the Captains, 8-2, to punch their ticket to the championship series.
The teams had never faced one another prior to Penn State-Harrisburg joining the CAC for the 2013-2014 academic year. Since then, the Sea Gulls have gone undefeated with a 10-0 record over the Lions, including a doubleheader sweep back on April 28 in Salisbury, with wins of 11-3 and 14-3. Junior infielder Jack Barry hit home runs in both games and fell a single short of the cycle in game one. Starting pitchers Austin Heenan and Connor Reeves both pitched strong games, with Reeves having one of his best performances of the season in game two. He didn't allow a hit to the Lions until the seventh inning, and finished the game with 10 strikeouts and only two hits, and a walk through eight-plus innings.
Scouting the Lions
The Lions had their best season since joining the conference five years ago. One of the biggest pieces to their success this year is in sophomore infielder Bret Williams, who leads the conference in home runs, with 14, and sits in second place with 55 runs batted in. He was his team's most valuable asset in helping advance out of the first round last weekend, launching three home runs and driving in seven total runs in the two games against Christopher Newport. Williams also shows speed on the base paths, having swiped 17 total bags this season. On the mound, the team will rely on the arm of sophomore pitcher Michael De Leon, who leads the team with a 3.35 earned run average. Freshman Zach Gettys and senior Mark Artley are the other arms likely to be called upon to start. The three have combined to start 27 of the team's 43 games this season.
Reeves (12-3) is currently having one of the best seasons in Salisbury baseball history. His 12 wins currently has him tied for most victories in a Sea Gull uniform with Brian Brushe (1977) and Brett Collacchi (2014). The mark also has him tied with Collacchi for most wins the Capital Athletic Conference history. Reeves currently leads all of Division III baseball in wins and walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) at 0.74.
The winner of this weekend's series will be the CAC champion and will earn the league's automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. The tournament field will be announced on Monday, May 14 with play beginning on Thursday, May 17.