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#25 Point Park splits with Cedarville, clinches AMC baseball playoff spot

April 29, 2011

Peluso vs. Cedarville
Derek Peluso tries to keep warm on a cold and rainy day at Green Tree Park. Photo by Lyddia Ankrom.

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PITTSBURGH -- Derek Peluso allowed only two runs over seven innings and struck out a career-high nine batters to lead NAIA No. 25 Point Park University to a 9-2 victory over visiting Cedarville University in the first game of an American MIdeast Conference baseball doubleheader at Green Tree Park Friday.

Although Point Park (34-11, 12-6 AMC) lost the second game, 4-1, to Cedarville (30-14, 10-8 AMC), the Pioneers assured themselves a spot in next week's AMC tourney by winning Friday's opener. Point Park is tied for first place in the AMC with Mt. Vernon Nazarene (12-6 AMC) heading into Saturday, the final day of the regular season.

Point Park visits Cedarville Saturday for a doubleheader at 1 p.m. Other playoff contenders are MVNU and Malone (11-7 AMC), and those teams play Saturday at 3 p.m. in Canton, Ohio. The top three teams make the AMC tournament, which is scheduled for May 3-5 at the regular season champion.

Point Park is still within reach of the regular season title and the No.1 playoff seed that goes with it. Regardless, the Pioneers have their first playoff berth since 2004 already locked up. Despite what happens Saturday at Cedarville, the Pioneers are well situated with tiebreakers even if they were to finished the regular season at 12-8 AMC.

A pair of Point Park wins Saturday coupled with anything less than two wins by MVNU would give the Pioneers the top playoff seed. Even a split at Cedarville could mean the Pioneers host the AMC Tournament depending on what happens in the MVNU at Malone games.

Peluso battled cold weather and also rain that came and went throughout the day. He gave up nine hits but got out of plenty of jams by racking up the career-high nine punchouts. Peluso, a junior from Zelienople, Pa., improved to 7-1 by putting together perhaps the most clutch performance of his career. 

Point Park got to Cedarville's top pitcher, Cullen Montgomery. The freshman right-hander from Florida came in at 7-1 with a 2.20 ERA and a .167 opponents' batting average. But Point Park, which is ranked ninth in the NAIA with a .339 team batting average, touched him for eight hits and seven earned runs in his five innings. Montgomery (7-2) was also plagued by six walks.

The Pioneers got things going early with three runs in the first as Zach O'Neal and Frank Marko each delivered an RBI single and another run came home on a wild pitch.

Cedarville cut the lead to 3-2 a few innings later, but Point Park scored six runs across the fourth, fifth and sixth innings to stretch the advantage out to 9-2. Big hits in that stage of the game included Brian Grise's run-scoring single in the fourth and Lee Bodnar's solo homer in the fifth. Bodnar also added an RBI single in the sixth, and O'Neal tacked on a sacrifice fly two batters later for a 9-2 Point Park lead.

Bodnar was 2 for 3 with two RBIs and three runs scored. The junior first baseman from Chartiers, Pa., is hitting .352 with six homers and a team-high 47 RBIs in 44 games.

Frank Marko, a senior third baseman from Robinson Twp., Pa., was 3 for 3 with an RBI in the opener, and he collected four hits on the day.

In the second game, Point Park was shut down by winning pitcher Michael Roe (6-2) who gave up only three hits in a complete-game effort. Despite giving up only three scattered singles, Roe gave the Pioneers some base runners with five walks. Point Park had a runner in scoring position with less than two outs in each of the first five innings and came up with just a lone run in the fourth.

Dillon Sauers cut the lead to 2-1 with his sacrifice fly in the fourth, and Point Park missed a chance to tie it up when the runner who was at second to start the play was cut down trying to score.

Point Park's next best chance to score was when Grise was a second with one out in the fifth, but Cedarville right fielder Andrew York made a diving play on Bodnar's liner to save a run. A double play ended Point Park's threat in the sixth, and Roe worked a 1-2-3 seventh to end it.

O'Neal had two of Point Park's three hits and now holds the team lead with 51 hits on the year.

Cedarville, which totaled 11 hits, added single runs in the sixth and seventh to bump the lead to 4-1 in the late innings. The Yellow Jackets had been clinging to a slim lead after putting up two quick runs on three hits in the first.

After yielding the early runs, Point Park starter Ryan Loutsenhizer (7-2) settled in to blank Cedarville the next four innings. The sophomore right-hander took the loss with two strikeouts, two walks and three earned runs in five innings. He gave up a double to the only batter he faced in the sixth.

NOTE: Point Park's 34 wins are the most for the program since it was 34-11 in the 2001 season. The Pioneers won the AMC regular season title that year. The 34 victories are tied for 10th most in the 44-year history of Point Park baseball. The Pioneers were 13-26 in 2010.