The Point Park University baseball team discovered the hard way that glittering statistics and records don't mean a thing when an opposing pitcher gets hot in a double-elimination tournament.
The Pioneers, heavy favorites to win the Unaffiliated Group Tournament and its automatic bid to the NAIA national tournament last week, lost twice to upstart Asbury University of Kentucky, 5-4, in 11 innings in the opener and 7-3 in the championship game.
The unaffiliated tournament is played by teams from three small conferences. Asbury, which started the season with 17 consecutive losses, entered the tournament with the worst record (14-36) and lowest seed and left with the automatic NAIA bid. Asbury won thanks to the pitching of right-hander Isaiah Bell, a graduate of Charleroi Area High School who transferred to Asbury from Penn State Fayette in 2010.
Point Park (48-9), ranked 12th in the NAIA national poll, had to wait a day to receive an at-large bid to the tournament and will meet No. 24 Taylor University of Indiana in an opening game Thursday in Marion, Ind. The Pioneers are in the national tournament for the first time since 1998, when they advanced to the NAIA World Series.
"We learned that it's anybody's opportunity to win," Point Park coach Loren Torres said. "There is no such thing as an upset in a tournament. You go into the tournament knowing anything can happen. I like our chances."
Point Park is in a five-team bracket that includes defending national champion Concordia of Irving, Calif. The winner will move on to the 10-team World Series in Lewiston, Idaho.
"It's always been all about our pitching," Torres said. "We'll go as far as they'll take us."
Point Park's staff is led by Nathan Spohn (8-0, 2.18 ERA), Derek Peluso (8-1, 2.27) and Manny Perdomo (7-0, 1.47).
They are supported by an offense that averages 7.5 runs per game, featuring Tom Posinski (.340), Marlon Leyva (.331), Tom Birko (.329) and Lee Bodnar (.320, 44 RBIs).
The Pioneers will be without Javier Marticorene, who injured his knee sliding into third base on an attempted triple earlier in the season. At the time, he had team highs with seven home runs and 34 RBIs.
"He was our best hitter," Torres said. "We've become a team that manufactures runs, squeezing them out with hitting and running. We used to sit back and wait for a big hit like a home run. We've had some challenges but have always found a way to win."
The Seton Hill Griffins (42-8), ranked seventh nationally in NCAA Division II and winner of 21 of their past 22 games, open play in the double-elimination West Virginia Intercollegiate Conference tournament against West Virginia State (21-25) Thursday at Point Stadium in Johnstown. Seton Hill defeated West Virginia State twice this season, 3-2 and 14-4. The WVIAC champion will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA regional tournament.
Seton Hill, No. 1 in the Atlantic Regional rankings, can expect to receive an at-large bid to the regional even if the Griffins don't win the WVIAC tournament.
Seton's high-octane offense averages nearly eight runs per game with a team batting average of .334. The Griffins feature designated hitter Nick Sell, who leads them with a .403 average, 11 home runs and 52 RBIs. This freshman from North Allegheny has added 25 pounds and blossomed into a power hitter after hitting just one homer in his high school career. The Griffins also get production from Brendan Constantino (.388), Mike LeViseur (.358) and Nick Ermino (.337). Seton Hill ranks sixth nationally in stolen bases with 141 in 162 attempts.
The pitching staff is deep with Brad Schnelle (7-0, 2.75 ERA), Alex Haines (6-1, 4.68 ERA), Clint White (5-1, 2.84 ERA) and Jon Murphy (3-0, 0.99 ERA, four saves).
La Roche College (21-17) won the regular-season American Mountain Collegiate Conference title and will play host to the league's postseason tournament Thursday through Saturday as the No. 1 seed. The champion will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.
Last weekend, the Redhawks defeated top-ranked Marietta, 7-3, for the school's first win in any sports against a team ranked No. 1 in the country.
Time is running out on the Pitt Panthers (24-22, 8-13 Big East), who must finish at least eighth in the 12-team conference to qualify for the Big East tournament, May 23-27, in Clearwater, Fla. Ninth-place Pitt, which plays a three-game series at fifth-place Seton Hall this weekend, trails eighth-place Villanova (9-12) by one game.
Pitt will finish its regular season with three home games against second-place Louisville, and Villanova has games remaining against sixth-place Rutgers and last-place Cincinnati.
Pitt, winner of four of its past five games, is led by two seniors who transferred from Duquesne when the Dukes dropped baseball two years ago -- infielders Rick Devereaux (team highs .370, 7 home runs, 51 RBIs) and Anthony DeFabio (.333).
The Carnegie Mellon women's tennis team (16-5), ranked No. 6 nationally, earned a bid to an NCAA Division III regional this weekend at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. The Tartans will play Friday against the winner of the Hope College (18-7)-Coe College (21-3) match. ... The California, Pa., women's golf team earned a berth to the NCAA Division II championships, May 16-19 in Louisville, Ky., for a third consecutive year after finishing third at a Super Regional One event.