Point Park gets edged by Asbury (Ky.) for Unaffiliated Tournament title
May 4, 2012
Point Park coach Loren Torres looks on during Friday's first game with Asbury. Photo by Jon Birchok.
KINSTON, N.C. -- For the second year in row, the Point Park University baseball team will have to wait until "selection Sunday" to hear its name called as an invitee to the NAIA Opening Round, the first stage of the national tournament.
Last year, the call never came. Hopefully this year it will. The Pioneers are in much better position for that to happen than they were 12 months ago.
After winning four straight elimination games, Point Park (48-9, 11- AMC) came up short in the finals of the Unaffiliated Tournament with Friday night's 7-3 loss to champion Asbury (Ky.) University.
Point Park had beaten winner's bracket champion Asbury (18-37, 9-7 KIAC), 15-7, earlier in the day Friday to force the decisive second game in the championship round of the six-team, double-elimination tournament. To read the recap of the first game, click here.
Asbury, which started year the year 0-17 and was 11-36 in the regular season, earns an automatic bid to the NAIA Opening Round. It is the first national tournament appearance for the school from Wilmore, Ky., and it comes after a 7-1 postseason record that includes a run to the KIAC Tournament title.
For Point Park, ranked No. 10 in this week's NAIA Baseball Coaches' Top 25 Poll, it will have to wait until Sunday night (May 6) to find out its fate. The Pioneers will likely get one of the 16 at-large bids given that its 48 wins are among the NAIA leaders. Everything is in the hands of the voters in the May 6 NAIA Top 25 Poll that is used to determine the at-large invites.
Chances are good for the Pioneers, however, as they battled through the loser's bracket to the finals of their "conference" tournament.
The NAIA will announce the 45 NAIA Opening Round Qualifiers and the Final Top 25 Poll on Sunday evening. There are nine campus sites around the country for the NAIA Opening Round, and five teams go to each site.
Point Park has won 16 of 18 games over the last month with the only losses being to Asbury. The Eagles, the No. 6 seed, sent top seed Point Park into the loser's bracket in Tuesday's first round with a 5-4 win in 11 innings.
Point Park then battled through the loser's bracket and eventually forced a winner-take-all game with the streaky Asbury ball club.
Asbury took its pitching staff to the limit in Friday's 15-7 loss to Point Park. The Eagles had four pitchers combine for 10 walks as they got to the bottom of their rotation. So, in the finals with their first-ever national appearance within reach, the Eagles brought back top starter Isaiah Bell on two days rest to get the start.
After limiting Point Park to four hits in nine innings on Tuesday, Bell came back Friday night to hold the Pioneers to one run on six hits over seven innings. He seemed to show no effects of Tuesday's 154-pitch effort that was eventually won by Asbury in 11 innings.
Asbury gave Bell the runs he need within the first three innings. The big outburst came in the third as the Eagles got four runs for a 5-0 lead. Tyler Messner's two-run double and Josh Cummins' RBI single were the big hits, and they knocked out Point Park starter Isaiah Marsh after only 2.2 innings.
Point Park had a chance in the bottom of that inning to majorly cut into the lead but ended up getting only one run. Consecutive, one-out singles by Dillon Sauers and Tom Birko put runners at the corners, and Rob Novia walked to load the bases. Lee Bodnar was then hit by a pitch to force in a run, okay, but a huge double play came next to end the threat and keep the score 5-1.
It was Point Park closer Mike Tullio who came on for Marsh with two outs in the third ,and his extended outing started off with five straight scoreless innings. Tullio gave up 11 hits but did his job to keep the score 5-1 and keep the Pioneers within striking distance.
But the comeback never came. Point Park left a total of 11 men on base including two each in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
In the sixth, a couple of two-out singles by Ossie Alfonzo and Marlon Leyva turned up empty. In the seventh, an infield hit and a walk had runners at the corners with two outs, but Point Park couldn't take advantage.
Steve Dujka delivered an RBI single in the eighth to cut the lead to 5-2, but runners were left at the corners as a chance was missed to get closer.
Asbury eventually got to Tullio in the top of the ninth to extend the lead to 7-2. Trailing by five, Point Park had four different men on base in its last at bat but just one came around to score on Lee Bodnar's two-out single. Bodnar was forced out at second on a fielder's choice to end it.
Asbury's winning pitcher Bell, who is from Charleroi, Pa., and is a transfer from PSU-Fayette, struck out four and walked two in seven innings. Brad Williams, the Eagles' No. 2 starter, pitched the last two innings and gave up two runs on three hits.
Point Park had nine hits in the game, but that was only half as many as the hot-hitting Asbury team. The Eagles pounded out 18 hits and still somehow left 10 men on base. Most of that was Tullio working his magic to get out of jams. Unfortunately, Bell did a lot of the same on the other side.
Bodnar finished 2 for 4 with two RBIs, and Birko joined him with the multi-hit performance at 2 for 4 with a walk.
Asbury came into the tournament with a team batting average of .257. All the Eagles did this week was collect 13, 14, 15, 19 and 18 hits in their five tournament games.
In the first game Friday, both teams had plenty of offense in the early going, and it looked like the teams would trade big innings all game long. Point Park scored seven runs in the third inning for a 9-2 only to have Asbury answer back in its half of the inning to cut it to 9-5.
But that's when Point Park reliever Horacio Acosta came in. The junior right-hander from Miami, Fla., held the very-hot hitting Asbury team to two runs over the final 6.1 innings of relief as the Pioneers won, 15-7.
Essentially, Point Park kept putting runs on the scoreboard as the back end of Asbury's rotation was unable to hold back the Pioneers. Conversely, Acosta put a stop to the early, back-and-forth nature to the game.
Acosta (3-0) got the win as he scattered eight hits over his 6.1 innings, struck out one and walked three. He entered the game in a bases-loaded jam in the third. Not only did he get out of it without further damage, the ground ball he induced was the first of eight groundouts in a row.
Point Park totaled 15 hits that game, although it was still four less than Asbury's 19. Cleanup hitter Ossie Alfonzo was 3 for 5 with two doubles and three RBIs. Dillon Sauers was 3 for 6 with an RBI.
Bodnar and Rob Novia each collected two hits and two RBIs, and Tom Pasinski had two hits and an RBI.
With the a good chance to get one of the 16 at-large bids on Sunday, Point Park will hopefully reverse the dissappointment it felt last year when it was the first team left out of the at-large invites. At 38-13 overall and ranked No. 23 in the final poll, the Pioneers missed out after being the runner-up in the AMC Tournament.
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