Unlikely sources carry Millersville
Marauders score all eight runs in fourth, fifth and sixth innings
LANCASTER, Pa. -- For just the second time in Millersville's 115 seasons of baseball, the team is heading to the NCAA Atlantic Region Championship game. The 10th-ranked Marauders overcame an early deficit to defeat No. 17 Mercyhurst 8-5 on Sunday.
Millersville (42-10) trailed 3-0 after the first inning but scored all eight runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to storm past the Lakers (41-11). It was a small measure of revenge for the Marauders after Mercyhurst knocked them out of the PSAC Tournament last week. The win for Millersville was crucial as Mercyhurst now has to win one more game Sunday night and then defeat Millersville twice on Monday to advance to the NCAA Division II Championship. Millersville last reached the Division II championship in 1998.
Millersville freshmen Tim Mayza and Adam Zipko kept a potent Mercyhurst lineup off-balance. Mayza (6-3), who threw seven scoreless innings in the conference playoffs against the Lakers, worked six innings and allowed only one unearned run after a shaky first, in which it took a visit from head coach Jon Shehan to calm him.
"I just went out and gave him a breather, really," Shehan said. "He's very competitive. He settled down on his own. He's the type of kid that's going to compete, compete, compete and throw strike after strike. Nothing's really phased him all year, he's a mature kid for a freshman."
Mayza allowed only six hits and no walks over the next five innings. He handed the ball to Zipko in the seventh, and the fellow freshman wasn't intimidated by the stage, especially in the ninth, when after giving up one run, Mercyhurst's PSAC Tournament hero Ethan Santora came to the plate representing the tying run. Zipko worked an 0-2 count and got Santora to fly out to left.
"(Mayza and Zipko) are roommates and they feed off of each other," Shehan said. "They compete in video games. They don't really care who they are facing or what the situation is. It can be a big game or a small game, playing a strong team or a weak team. It's very impressive to see two guys with that maturity and that ability to focus in such a big game atmosphere."
A pair of unlikely heroes also emerged at the plate for the Marauders. Entering Sunday, senior Corey Phelan was 1-for-7 in the regional and hitting .45 points below his career average, and designated hitter Mike Perez was making just his 10th start of the season. Phelan went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and Perez went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
"I think Corey's been getting a good part of the bat on the ball all year, he's just had very little to show for it," Shehan said. "We knew Perez could hit, it was just one of those things where he didn't get a chance to play early and other guys got hot, and we kept them in. You never know when you're going to be called on and he just stayed positive. He's very unselfish. He's been a team guy all year long and that's what put him in the situation to be ready to go."
Millersville's charge from behind started in the fourth when Derek Kline led off with a walk. Zach Stone doubled down the line for his team-leading 44th RBI of the season. Phelan followed with a single and a Mercyhurst throwing error allowed Stone to score and Phelan to move to second. Ryan Chesler doubled in Phelan, tying the game at 3-3.
Mercyhurst retook the lead in the fourth on a Jonathan Keppler RBI single. Millersville, however, quickly responded with a four-run fifth. Back-to-back errors by Mercyhurst opened the door to the big inning. With the bases loaded, Phelan retied the game with a single. Perez singled in two more runs, pushing the Marauders in front for good. Ryan McCormick gave the Marauders their seventh run on an infield single that scored Phelan.
Phelan notched his second RBI of the game in the sixth by driving in Stone, who opened the inning with a one-out double--his second of the game.
Mercyhurst threatened in the eighth with a single and a Millersville error, but the threat ended when Stone snared a line drive and doubled the runner off of first base. Zipko stranded two more Lakers in the ninth for his second save of the year.
Mercyhurst's Zach Leitten (4-2) took the loss after allowing seven runs--only one earned--in 4.1 innings. Brad Duffy pitched 4.2 innings of relief. The Lakers outhit Millersville 14-10 but committed three errors.
The Marauders now await the winner of the East Stroudsburg/Mercyhurst game. The winner of the regional advances to Cary, N.C. for the NCAA Division II Championship.