Bethlehem, Pa. - After dropping game one of the Landmark Conference final series on Friday evening, The Catholic University of America baseball team came back Saturday afternoon to upset Moravian College in a double header in Bethlehem, PA to become the 2015 Landmark Conference Champions, while also securing an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Baseball Championships.
Moravian had the series advantage going into game two on Saturday morning, but the Cardinals outscored the Greyhounds 10-6 to force the series into a decisive third game. The Cards and Hounds kept the fans on their toes in the final series matchup with 18 hits apiece as the Cardinals ultimately prevailed with a 16-12 victory, and the school's fourth Landmark Conference title.
Stefan Poggioli of Catholic was honored as the MVP of the championship series after going eight for 13 during the series against Moravian and 13 for 25 overall in the tournament's six games. Poggioli batted in five runners in the series against the Greyhounds with one homerun, one double, two stolen bases and five runs.
Catholic's Karan Sinha took the mound in Saturday's opening game, throwing to 21 batters with two strike outs in 4.1 innings. Reliever Mark Duffy took over and closed out the Cardinals first win of the day, pitching to 16 batters over four and two-thirds innings of work.
To stay alive in the championship round, Catholic took an early 3-0 lead in the top of the second inning. With two outs and runners on first and second base, Daniel Hinchcliff hit a single into left field for the first RBI of the day, scoring John Palladino. The Greyhounds walked Wyatt Schmidt setting the stage for a 2-RBI double into left field by Stefan Poggiolli to bring home Brett Padula and Hinchcliff.
The Cardinals gave up one the bottom of the third, but regained their three-run lead with an insurance run in the fourth as Palladino hit a bases-loaded single to plate Hinchcliff. The Greyhounds answered with four runs in the fifth to take their first lead of the day, 5-4.
As Poggioli came to the plate in the top of the 6th, he subsequently evened the contest with a solo home run to left-center field. Despite the Cardinals efforts in the top half of the inning, the Greyhounds notched one run of their own in the bottom half to regain the one run advantage.
Catholic did not allow Moravian any additional runs and gained control of the game with three runs in the seventh and two in the eighth for a 10-6 lead through nine innings.
Seventh inning runs came from Alec Dolton and Padula on a 2-RBI single form Hinchcliff and Andrew Stewart off a sacrifice fly from Poggioli. Anthony Ferlise lead off the eighth with solo-homer and later Stewart batted in Palladino with single to center field to insure a third and final game of the series.
Game three looked promising for Catholic after they went up 10-2 through six innings, but with the conference trophy on the line, Moravian was not going down without a fight.
Catholic notched their first two runs of game three in the second inning. After reaching first base on a fielding error, Ferlise was batted in by Jake Crist. Mike McFarland stepped to the batter's box next and sent a sacrifice fly to center field scoring Paladino. CUA's third run came in the third inning when Poggioli crossed the plate after a double down the left line form Ferlise.
A Greyhound fielding errors in the top of the fourth inning allowed CUA three additional unearned runs. Hinchcliff batted in Eric Scamardella and Crist, and Poggioli hit a sacrifice fly to bring home Matt Hsiung.
Scamardella drove in his first RBI of the day in the sixth with a double to right center to score Poggioli. Scamardella was driven home two batters later with a sac fly from Palladino, bringing the Cards to a 10-2 lead.
With the Landmark crown just nine outs away the Cards gave the fans a scare, giving up seven in the seventh as Moravian rallied to try and keep their season alive. The Greyhounds rally only fueled CUA as they went on to score six additional run in the eighth giving them a seven run advantage.
Palladino entered the batter's box in the eighth with Ferlise occupying first base, Scamardella on second and Poggioli sitting at third. The runners took their opportunity to advance on a wild pitch that scored Poggioli then Palladino ripped a single down the middle of the diamond to bring home Scamardella. Crist stepped up next and launched a 2-RBI double into left field. Alec Dolton took second base as a pinch runner for Crist while McFarland followed suit sending a double into right center to bring the runner home. McFarland reached the plate for CUA's 16th run of the championship final game when Hsuing sent a sacrifice fly to right field.
Moravian earned three more runs in the bottom half of the inning, but it wouldn't be enough. A scoreless ninth inning ended the game 16-12 in favor of the Cardinals to claim their first Landmark title since 2011.
Jack Hennessey made the start for the Cards on the rubber, pitching six innings and earning his sixth win of the season. Joe Salzano pitched to four batters in one-third of an inning, while Chris Hutton face three batters in two-thirds of a frame. Sean Carroll closed out the game for Catholic facing 11 batters in the final two innings.
Catholic will continue their season in the NCAA Division III National Championships. Tournament selections will be announced Sunday, May 10.