CARY, N.C. -- The first NCAA Division II championship appearance for the Seton Hill Griffins will go down as a memorable one, as they were able to defeat Minnesota State-Mankato by the score of 4-2 to move into the winner's bracket of bracket No. 2. With the victory, the Griffins improve to 41-15 on the season.
The Mavericks threatened in the top of the first off of Griffin starter Mike Bittel. After a flyout to start the game, two singles and a hit batsman loaded the bases with one out. Bittel then got a huge strikeout of the Mavs number five hitter and then a foul out to end the top of first inning. SHU used that momentum to score three runs in the bottom of the first. After an out, Anthony Fanelliwas hit by a pitch. Cody Herald followed with a perfectly executed hit and run to move Fanelli to third. Nick Sell then drove in a run with a single to left field. After a strikeout and a double steal, Matt Malacane then singled to left field driving in two more runs to give SHU a 3-0 lead after one inning.Minnesota State answered right back in the top of the second. The Mavs used a leadoff double and a triple plus a passed ball to cut the Griffins lead to 3-2. Bittel then got the Mavs out 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth inning for first time by either starter in the contest. A leadoff single in the top of the sixth chased starter Bittel and Brett Sullivan took over for Bittel. He was able to strand that runner and SHU continued to lead 3-2 after five and a half innings.
Sullivan was then able to strand another runner at second base in the top of the seventh with a fly out to right field. SHU got Taylor Schmidt to second base with two outs in the seventh after a one out single and a sacrifice bunt but a groundout to short ended the seventh inning. Seton Hill added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth. After an out, Sell singled to center field. He moved to second on a bunt from Chris Miller and scored when Malacane singled to center field to drive in his third run of the game and give SHU a 4-2 lead.
Jesse Cooper then entered the game in the top of the ninth looking for a save. He was able to record his 17th save of the season by getting a flyout and two groundouts around a one out single.
Mike Bittel earned his ninth win of the season. He went five innings, gave up two runs (one earned) on six hits. Brett Sullivan then threw three scoreless innings in relief and Jesse Cooper earned his 17th save of the year with a scoreless ninth.
Matt Malacane led the Griffin offense with two hits and three RBI. Taylor Schmidt finished the game going 3-3. Cody Herald and Nick Sell each added two hits.
Seton Hill will now play the winner of the Colorado Mesa-St Thomas Aquinas matchup on Tuesday evening at 8 p.m. ET.