SETON HILL GRIFFINS (42-17)
No team that fell short in their quest to make it to Cary last season came closer than the Seton Hill Griffins. After running away with the WVIAC regular season title, the Griffs were undefeated in the Atlantic Regional and had to only win one of two games against Shippensburg, a team which many were surprised even made the tournament, to advance to the DII CWS for the first time in school history. In game one SHU jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but were usurped after giving up ten straight runs – most of which were unearned. In the winner-take-all finale the Griffs again jumped out to a lead but were again felled by unearned runs for a disappointing end to their season.
Following the two most successful seasons in program history, 2014 could be the year Head Coach Marc Marizzaldi and the Griffs finally make the 484-mile trip to Cary. The biggest reason why SHU will complete for the trip to be amount the final eight are pair of big time performers in two time All American Nick Sell and potential top draft pick Alex Haines.
Sell finished fourth in the 2013 voting for the Tino Martinez Award balloting for DII Baseball Player of the Year. As one of the top hitters in the nation, he batted .431 with 31 extra base hits and had a video-game-like .731 slugging percentage along with a .521 on-base percentage. The junior third basemen also added 57 RBI and scored 65 times. Haines was forecasted to be taken as high as the fourth round of last years MLB draft, but he dropped to the 33rd round after teams became leery of his past surgeries. Last season Haines had a team leading 2.35 ERA and went 8-2 with four complete games while striking out 91 batters in 76.2 innings. In 2012 Haines let the nation in strikeouts per nine innings, fanning 108 batters in just 70 innings pitched.
Despite the imposing presence of Sell and Haines, the Griffs are far from a two-man team. Offensively Sell will be rejoined by a pair of experienced and accomplished senior middle infielders in Brendan Costantino and Pat McCarthy. Costantino was a First Team WVIAC selection at shortstop after batting .358 with 35 stolen bases. McCarthy hit .397, good for second on the club, and also added 35 stolen bases. Cody Herald earned a Rawlings Gold Glove for his play in the outfield and also added a .324 batting average and added 18 stolen bases. Marizzaldi is also big on incoming University of Cincinnati transfer Taylor Schmidt who had mixed success in his first season as a Bearcat and freshman Garrett Vrbanic who will be looking to break into the lineup as an infielder.
In addition to Haines, Brett Sullivan who led SHU with nine wins, five complete games and 79 innings pitched will be back on the mound. Other experienced arms include Bob Carbaugh who excelled in a dual starter/relief role and walked only seven batters in 44 innings while earning a 3.63 ERA and Mike Bittel who impressed as a freshman, going 4-0 while leading the team in saves.
The Griffins will also be in a more competitive conference this season which should get them better prepared and ready for regional play. Also of note is that In the fall several Griffs struggled with injuries which limited their participation on the field, including Sell. Provided they are able to overcome their ailments, look for SHU to complete nationally and to be consistently ranked in the top ten for the season.