- Last Updated on Friday, 03 August 2012 10:13
- Written by The Times Weekly
- Category: Sports News
For the second year in a row, University of St. Francis punched its ticket to the NAIA National Championship Opening Round Tournament by winning the CCAC Tournament, doing so on a fog-covered Oil City Stadium by rallying to upset NAIA No. 16-ranked Judson University, 9-8, late Friday night. The win capped off a perfect 4-0 tournament for the Saints, who opened the day by defeating Purdue University North Central (Ind.), 10-6.
In that game, St. Francis broke free from a 1-1 tie with nine unanswered runs, while in the nightcap, USF (37-15) rallied from a 5-0 deficit after two innings with an eight-run outburst.
Back-to-back run-producing hits to right field by the bottom of its order – sophomore left fielder Tim Reichert and senior second baseman Justin Blaine sparked St. Francis' initial three-run fifth inning before senior shortstop David Schwabe (2-run single) and David Kuhne (RBI single) got things done at the top of the order in a four-run seventh inning. Those runs came after the two teams exchanged solo home runs in the second and fourth innings with USF's Steve Cservenyak providing the initial blow with his second home run of the tournament.
St. Francis added two more runs on a wild pitch and an error in the ninth inning to make it 10-1 before Purdue North Central (29-30) got to a spent Matt Huck in the bottom of the ninth. Huck (8-1) allowed only one run through the first eight innings before being greeted in the ninth with a solo home run followed by a walk and a double to end his day. Chad Gaskin added a three-run home run off Saint reliever Corey Schultz to cap the futile five-run rally. Kuhne and St. Francis freshman catcher Brandon Mendoza each collected a game-high three hits as part of USF's overall 14-hit attack, while Schwabe, Cservenyak and Blaine each registered a pair of hits.
In Game 2, Judson (46-12) looked as though it might break USF's three-year hex on the Eagles with five runs on six hits through the first two innings. The Saints, however, outdid that run count in the third inning alone when they sent 10 batters to the plate to produce six runs on five hits. Senior third baseman Jesse Gregurich and Cservenyak both drove in a pair of runs in the inning with Cservenyak's double tying the game. Sophomore right fielder Brad Porter's single one batter later completed the rally. Unearned runs in both the fourth and fifth innings extended USF's advantage to 8-5 before Judson got right back in the game with a three-run blast off the bat of Cameron Balough in the sixth inning. Balough was also at bat one inning later after USF regained the lead, 9-8, on a Mendoza groundout to score Gregurich, who opened the inning with his third single of the game, stole second and moved to third on a groundout.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Balough was left standing at home plate with the bat in his hands after Judson's Craig Lipp tried to score on a wild pitch that caromed off Mendoza towards the Judson dugout on the left side of the field. With his momentum going away from the play, Mendoza made a perfect back-handed flip to pitcher Michael Chimera to just beat a sliding Lipp at the plate for the third out of the inning.
The win completed a three-game sweep of Judson on the year – USF won a doubleheader 3-0 and 5-4 in eight innings almost one month to the day (April 3) – and gave the Saints nine wins in their last 10 meetings against the Eagles over the past three years. St. Francis finished the brisk 51-degree day with 25 total hits, including five from Mendoza and four off the bat of Schwabe.
The Saints will find out Sunday afternoon to which of nine different Opening Round sites they will be sent to for the next five-team, double-elimination tournament. It will be USF's third straight appearance in the Opening Round and the inaugural one under first-year coach Brian Michalak. The Saints went 2-2 in each of their previous two appearances, both of which were hosted at Silver Cross Field (SCF). SCF is not one of this year's nine sites.