Every Seton Hill University baseball player has a shirt that has “484.18” written on it. That is the number of miles from One Seton Hill Drive in Greensburg to Cary, N.C., site of the NCAA Division II championship tournament.
For the Seton Hill team, the trip is just the beginning of what can be a much longer journey.
“That’s what we establish from day one,” coach Marc Marizzaldi said. “The expectation is, ‘Here, this is what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get to the world series and it’s this far away.’ ”
The Griffins advanced to the Division II tournament in Cary for the first time in program history after a 3-0 victory last Sunday against Millersville. Seton Hill players thought that winning the Atlantic regional title was a long time in the making.
“Finally,” said Brad Schnelle, a right-handed pitcher and Moon High School graduate. “It’s been four years; we’ve been [to the Atlantic regional] four times. We finally did it. It’s kind of a feeling of relief, almost, but a feeling of excitement at the same time.”
The Griffins, who have logged a 40-15 record this year, are trying to draw from the heartbreak of past postseason losses to bring home the first national team title in the school’s history.
“When you look at our team last year, we were really consistent,” Marizzaldi said. “We didn’t have any injuries and our starting rotation pretty much remained the same the whole year, but at the end of the day we came up — literally came up — a couple of outs short.”
Marizzaldi added that this season has been different because of adversity the team has faced, which resulted from numerous injuries and players having to switch positions. The team’s attitude, he said, changed from one of wanting to win to refusing to lose.
“This year, I think we had a little bit better fight in us,” said redshirt sophomore Chris Miller, a catcher/first baseman. “Even the games where we were down early in the game, we came back and fought back and won. We just had a lot more fight in us and that came with the attitude that we wanted to win and we wanted to take what was ours.”
Seton Hill will start the tournament at 1 p.m. Sunday against Minnesota State-Mankato, which finished the season 44-9 and won the Central Region after a 6-3 win against Emporia State.
Logan Urtz, an infielder and right-handed pitcher, said the key for Seton Hill will be not getting caught up in the circus atmosphere that surrounds a national championship.
“We can’t just be satisfied to make it after all these years and be relieved like, ‘Hey, we’re going to the world series,’ but to stay hungry and keep that mentality to go out and fight for everything,” the Central Valley graduate said.
What would a title mean to not only the baseball team but also the university?
“It wouldn’t just be great for us,” Miller said. “There were a lot of alumni before us and a lot of them made the trip up to the regional.
“When we won, they all had tears in their eyes and were crying because they’re still Griffs. So, we’re not just doing it for us, we’re doing it for them, too.”
The Griffins hope the road to a title won’t end after just 484.18 miles.