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Game Preview: Point Park vs. Lee

GAME NOTES: Point Park (52-9) vs. Lee (Tenn.) (54-9-1) in NAIA World Series

Posted May 26 at 10 a.m. PT

Tom Pasinski is on a 14-game hit streak and leads the Pioneers in hitting at .349

Point Park (52-9) vs. Lee (Tenn.) (54-9-1)
May 26, 2012 at 3 p.m. PT – NAIA World Series 2nd Round
Harris Field (Lewiston, Idaho)
NAIA Rankings (May 6): Point Park No. 12, Lee No. 2
ON-AIR: Live Video courtesy of NAIA and NeuLion ($9.95); Live Radio via KOZE-Sports.com (Fee)



LEWISTON, Idaho – It’ll be Pittsburgh versus Cleveland on Day 2 of the NAIA World Series in Lewiston, Idaho, on Saturday (May 26) – Cleveland, Tennessee, that is.

Point Park (52-9), the No. 7 seed from Downtown Pittsburgh, Pa., will take on NAIA No. 2 and second-seeded Lee (Tenn.) (54-9-1) at 3 p.m. PT in a winner’s bracket game at Harris Field.

Lee, hailing from Cleveland, Tenn., got a first-round bye as one of the top two teams in the 10-team, double-elimination bracket. Point Park advanced by beating College of Idaho, 7-3, in the very first game of the tournament Friday morning.

The Point Park-Lee game and all games of the NAIA World Series will be broadcast live on pay-per-view, online video courtesy of the NAIA and its video-streaming partner NeuLion. Internet radio from KOZE-Sports.com and live stats from the NAIA will also be provided with both of those being free of charge. For Live Coverage, click here

Lee, ranked No. 2 in the latest NAIA Top 25 Poll and ranked No. 1 for part of this season, has made itself a regular on the final days of the World Series. The Flames have finished no worse than third the last four years and are making their sixth-consecutive trip to the Series. Lee finished second in 2008 and 2010 with losses in the championship game and also finished third in 2009 and 2011. Lee is in its 15th year as a baseball program and has already been to the World Series seven times. But the Flames are still searching for their first national title.

Point Park, ranked No. 12 in the NAIA Top 25 Poll, was a one-time regular at the World Series, although this year’s appearance is the first in 14 years for the Pioneers. Point Park went 10 times from 1974-98 and is in the tourney for the 11th time. The win over College of Idaho, in which the Pioneers erased an early, 3-0 deficit, set a school record for wins in a season. At 52-9, Point Park bested the 1986 team that was 51-8 and finished third in the NAIA World Series. The Pioneers had been searching for a World Series win prior to Friday’s victory, which snapped a nine-game, World Series losing streak for the school dating back to the 1987 elimination game.

The Point Park-Lee matchup figures to be one that features good pitching on both sides. Lee has a team ERA of 2.56 led by a trio of front-line starters. Point Park had a team ERA of 2.96 and a starter’s ERA of 2.15 entering the tournament.

Lee has an edge in terms of power at the plate as its 57 total home runs dwarf the Pioneers’ 15 as a team. Point Park has an edge in on-base percentage (.431 to .401), and both teams are close in team batting average (Point Park .319, Lee .315). 

On Point Park (52-9)
The Pioneers are largely based on pitching, and they got a great start from Sean Clark (8-0, 2.55 ERA) on Friday. The senior from Titusville, Pa., went seven innings, shrugged off five hit batters and allowed only three runs on five hits. Point Park still has AMC Pitcher of the Year Derek Peluso (9-1, 2.23 ERA), a senior right-hander, and Nathan Spohn (8-0, 2.29), a freshman left-hander in the arsenal, and one of those will get the start versus Lee. Manny Perdomo (7-0, 1.47 ERA) could also get a start this week if the Pioneers are fortunate enough to stick around long enough.

Offensively, the Pioneers are predicated on getting on base and getting timely hitting. Point Park does not have great power numbers with only 15 homers in 61 games, but it has plenty of line-drive hitters. The Pioneers spread the RBIs around the lineup with eight players with 25 or more on the season.

Point Park used timely hitting to beat College of Idaho in the first round Friday. Of the Pioneers’ 11 hits, nine were singles, and they also mixed in a suicide squeeze play with the bases loaded as part of a game-changing, five run rally in the fifth.

Lee Bodnar (.333, 48 RBIs) is the top run producer for the Pioneers and hits third. He entered the tournament hitting .413 since April 7. Leadoff man Tom Birko (.339, 44 RBIs) teams with No. 2 hitter Rob Novia (.337, 42 RBIs) in getting on base well, and both are also among the team leaders in RBIs.

Ossie Alfonzo (.257, 36 RBIs) hits cleanup and came alive for a 2-for-4 performance with three RBIs in the first round win. Tom Pasinski (.349, 33 RBIs) extending his hit streak to 14 games on Friday and starts a string of hitters who get on base well as the No. 7 hitter in the order. No. 8-9 hitters Don McDuffee (.325, 22 RBIs) and Dillon Sauers (.298, 26 RBIs) were both 2 for 4 on Friday and were responsible for getting big innings going.

Scouting Lee (Tenn.) (54-9-1)
Lee has just 11 players returning last year’s team that finished third in the World Series, but a re-stocked roster that features 24 of 35 players who did not start their career at Lee has the Flames back in business.

Lee has a strong pitching staff that features a 2.56 team ERA. Right-hander Kris Hall (11-0, 1.52 ERA) is the No. 1 starter and has 115 strikeouts in 94.2 IP. He will likely face Point Park in the World Series on Saturday. After posting a 3.46 ERA and eight saves as the team’s closer in 2011, Hall has emerged at the top of the rotation this year. He is one of the top strikeout pitchers in the NAIA and has been rated by Baseball America as No. 80 on the Top 100 draft eligible players in college baseball, according to the Lee media guide.

Other strong starters are lefty Patrick Merkling (8-2, 2.15 ERA, 75.1 IP) and righty Vince Spilker (7-2, 2.67 ERA, 84.1 IP), both of whom were selected in the later rounds of the 2011 MLB draft but opted to come back to school. The closer is Andy Hilis (2.93 ERA, 7 SV), who is 6-7 and was drafted out of high school. He originally went to University of Tennessee but left there after Tommy John surgery.

The right side of the Flames’ infield has plenty of talent on offense as first baseman Roberto Reyes hits .311 with 19 doubles, 15 homers and 82 RBIs in 64 games. Second baseman Blake Barber hits a team-high .416 with 17 doubles, 9 homers and 62 RBIs. Barber was at Cal-State Fullerton last year although he hit only .186 in 59 at bats there. A third powerful bat is designated hitter Corey Davis, who comes in with a .340 average, 10 homers and 56 RBIs.